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Hospital's Kennedy pleads for travel restrictions

The head of Thunder Bay Regional's COVID-19 response team begs employers to require seven-day quarantines for workers who travel outside of Northern Ontario.
Stewart Kennedy
Dr. Stewart Kennedy, Thunder Bay Regional Health Sciences Centre's COVID-19 lead. (Leith Dunick,

THUNDER BAY – The head of Thunder Bay Regional Health Sciences Centre’s COVID-19 response team says anyone who leaves Northern Ontario should probably self-isolated for about a week.

Dr. Stewart Kennedy on Tuesday said the surging numbers of COVID-19 cases in the area is worrisome. Since last Thursday, the Thunder Bay District Health Unit has announced 23 new cases, most related to either travel or close contact.

“I’m worried,” Kennedy said. “Eventually we’re going to get COVID-19 in here. Eventually a visitor or a care partner will bring in COVID-19, through no fault of their own. That’s why I really think we can protect the community by putting travel restrictions in place.

“Everybody who has to go away for essential travel needs to stay home for at least seven days to make sure they’re not symptomatic before going back to their place of employment.”

Kennedy said it’s not realistic to expect COVID-19 to stay out of the community, but he does want public health officials and the public itself to take all possible precautions to limit its spread.

“I’m looking at employers too, as well as citizens, to put those restrictions in place. We have one acute-care hospital here in town. If we get cases here at Thunder Bay Regional and have to close units, the whole health of the community is at risk,” Kennedy said.

“So I’m pleading to the citizens of Thunder Bay, as well as the employers of Thunder Bay to put these restrictions in place because it’s threatening the health-care providers. It’s threatening the hospital. So we need to do something more aggressive than we’ve done in the past.”

Kennedy said the hospital has travel restrictions in place for its workers, who are expected to stay at home for seven days upon returning to Thunder Bay, should they travel outside Northern Ontario. Essential employees are exempted in some cases.

“If we don’t restrict travel to our citizens of Thunder Bay, along those same guidelines that Thunder Bay Regional is taking the leadership on, we could actually see those numbers continue to explode,” Kennedy said.

“The citizens of Thunder Bay really need to be only traveling for essential travel ... But if they do travel, they need to stay home for seven days and be asymptomatic before going back to their place of employment.”

The health unit on Monday announced customers who visited two thrift stores operated by Adult and Teen Challenge over the past week may have been exposed to COVID-19, after individuals involved with the organization tested positive over the weekend.

The health unit at this time does not have travel restrictions in place.

Kennedy’s requests comes on the same day neighbouring Manitoba announced a return to lockdowns and Code Red, shutting all non-essential businesses completely, or limiting them to curbside pick-up service only.

Ontario on Tuesday announced a record 1,388 cases and 15 more deaths, the fifth straight day more than 1,000 people have been infected with COVID-19. Certain areas of the province, including Toronto, have been rolled back to Stage 2 of the province’s reopening plan. Toronto reported 520 new cases, while Peel Region announced 395.

Leith Dunick

About the Author: Leith Dunick

A proud Nova Scotian who has called Thunder Bay home since 2002, Leith has been the editor of Thunder Bay Source for 19 years and has served a similar role with since 2009. Wants his Expos back. Twitter: @LeithDunick
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