Region’s top doctor supports reopening of economy but warns against gatherings

WELLINGTON COUNTY – It’s been long, it’s been hard, and people are becoming impatient with the physical restrictions that COVID-19 has forced upon them.

But stay the course, says Dr. Nicola Mercer, medical officer of health for Wellington-Dufferin-Guelph Public Health (WDGPH).

“Locally, we can see the number of new cases is falling, and that’s good news. But it’s not zero,” she said in a phone interview on May 19.

Over the Victoria Day weekend, 22 new cases were reported in the health unit’s catchment area, bringing the total to 349 (as of May 19), including 202 resolved cases and 33 deaths.

In Wellington County there are 60 cases (up from 55 prior to the long weekend), 38 resolved cases and two deaths.

Dufferin County has 150 cases, 70 resolved cases and 23 deaths, while the Guelph totals are 131, 92 and eight respectively.


Mercer said she supports the province’s initiative to slowly reopen the economy.

“It’s important to open what we can,” she said, adding poverty is a determinate of poor health, “so we want people who can work to work.

“But for workplaces with higher risk, we need to wait a while.”

Mercer said public health inspectors are also back at work, “and we can provide warnings,” to employers who break the rules, but education is still the best policy, she said.

“I believe businesses want to do the right thing,” when it comes to serving their customers in a safe manner, she said.

There has also been a plateau in new cases in long-term care facilities in this region and that’s particularly good news as seniors over 80 have the greatest fatality rate.

“We know the virus is brought in (to long-term care facilities) from outside. As we see a decrease in the community, we will see a decrease in long-term care as well,” Mercer said.

COVID-19 is a respiratory illness that can be spread from touching common items, but more often it is spread by droplets from talking in close proximity to others.

That’s why limiting the number of people in a gathering and keeping a two-metre distance from other people is so important.

And it remains public health’s strongest messaging, along with regular and thorough hand-washing.

“You might trust your family, but there’s a lower risk (of acquiring COVID-19) at the grocery store than at a family gathering,” she said.

“This virus does not discriminate.”

Mercer encourages people to go outside and enjoy the warmer weather.

“But please do not gather. It’s not quite the time,” she said.

“If we can change our social distancing, we can delay or blunt a second wave. If behaviours don’t change it’s possible we’ll see outbreaks again, in long-term care and in workplaces.”