Sault health officials warn against holiday travel outside Algoma
As the holidays roll in, health officials in Sault Ste. Marie are advising against travelling outside of the Algoma district to visit family and friends. (File)
SAULT STE. MARIE -- As Canadians gear up for the holidays, Sault Ste. Marie health officials are sounding the alarm about travel outside of the Algoma district.
Despite no official travel strategy from upper government on those moving across Canada, Sault Area Hospital's infectious disease specialist said more is needed than just recommendations.
"Although it's recommended that no one travel during the pandemic, we have to be realistic," said Dr. Lucas Castellani. "We know that, unfortunately, some people are travelling, whether it's for visiting loved ones or really, people just want to come home for Christmas."
Castellani put out a tweet Monday night, pleading for the public to stay home. While it's not enforceable by law, he's asking those who do travel to consider quarantine periods upon return.
"That's not mandated by any regulations as far as I'm aware, but it is best practice," he said. "It's something to consider because during that period of time is when that virus can be percolating inside and it can come out at any point in time."
Castellani said COVID-19 testing should also be considered, however, travel within the country doesn't necessarily meet provincial requirements to allow for someone to take a test.
On top of that, he said banking on a test upon return isn't a great option.
"A test the first day they're back is not going to help rule out the virus," he said. "Just because your test is negative doesn't mean in three or four days it's not going to be positive."
Over at Algoma Public Health, the messaging surrounding the holidays is very much the same.
In fact, its associate medical officer of health said this will be the first year she celebrates Christmas in the Sault, rather than returning home.
"There's no good reason right now as for us to go out and about," said Dr. Jennifer Loo. "I certainly don't want to accidentally bring COVID to my family who live elsewhere and same thing, vice-versa."
On Monday, the first of Pfizer-BioNTech's vaccine were rolled out across Ontario and the country.
Vaccines are currently being prioritized for healthcare and frontline workers, as well as the most vulnerable in the country.
"We know that the province is going to expand distribution of those vaccines soon to other areas of the province once they distribute to the lockdown areas and those priority groups," said Loo. "The province has indicated that they will be expanding those distribution sites in early 2021, so Algoma Public Health has been in a lot of conversation with our hospitals, family health teams and long-term care homes so that everyone can be ready."
On Dec. 11, Algoma Public Health reported its 62nd positive case of COVID-19 in the district. Despite the relatively good work in keeping numbers low, Loo said it only takes one person to change that in an instant.