Saturday, February 27, 2021

Dr. Colby: ‘Impossible’ to measure early effectiveness of mask bylaw

Chatham-Kent’s Medical Officer of Health says it is “impossible” at this time to measure the effectiveness or non-effectiveness of the recently implemented mask by-law in the community.

Dr. David Colby

Dr. David Colby addressed the issue during a press conference last week.

“It would take a couple of weeks after the mask by-law went into effect to measure a change from that by-law,” Dr. Colby said.

“Our number of new cases were already in steep decline before this happened. The other thing is the measuring problem. We already were at, pretty well, a zero baseline with untraceable cases in the community.”

Municipality of Chatham-Kent Council voted in favour of implementing a mandatory mask by-law on Monday night, August 10, 2020 during their electronic meeting.

The by-law went into effect on Friday, August 14, 2020 at 12:01 a.m.

Details, here and here.

Dr. Colby, who did not recommend implementing the by-law, said last week that community spread of COVID-19 is defined as anything that is not institutional or workplace.

“So, it is not hospital, not long-term care, not retirement home and not a workplace,” Dr. Colby said.

“But that gives the wrong impression to people that read a story or hear about this, they get the idea that this is all over the place and that you’re at big risk going to the store. That has not been the case in Chatham-Kent.”

Dr. Colby said all of the cases in Chatham-Kent, particularly the cases within the last eight weeks “at the very least” and just a handful since the beginning of the pandemic, are all traceable to other risk factors.

“Congregate settings, close contact with family and known positives in the family, not just random family but positive people that we already knew about… travel and associated with workplace outbreaks,” Dr. Colby said.

“So we’ve never been, as in other jurisdictions, some of them have, cases that are traced to retail establishments. So when we don’t have that, it’s impossible to measure a decrease as a result of the mask by-law. This is not really something that should be interpreted as it was effective or not effective or whatever. There is just no way to measure a decrease from an additional measure if you’re already at zero.”

After the mask by-law was in effect, CK Public Health officials released some information and tips for the community.

“Wearing a mask is only one aspect in reducing an individual’s chances of contracting COVID-19,” CK Public Health officials said on social media.

Public Health officials are encouraging people that in addition to wearing a mask you:

– Maintain physical distancing of two metres at all times

– Wash your hands with soap and water or use hand sanitizer with 70% alcohol frequently

– Stay home (not going into the community or to work) if you’re not feeling well, and get tested for COVID-19.

“CK Public Health will continue posting resources and information to remind and educate the community on the current public health measures, in addition to the new by-law,” CK Public Health said on social media.

More details, here.

The mask topic is expected to be back before Council on September 14, as part of Chatham Councillor Brock McGregor’s successful motion included developing further amendments in consultation with Dr. Colby, addressing other preventative measures including: physical distancing requirements and the provision of hand sanitizer in public spaces.

As of Friday, September 4, 2020, there were five active cases of COVID-19 in the community and 363 cases in total since the start of the pandemic, CK Public Health officials say.

Watch for more on this story later this week.

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