Editor's note: This story was updated on Sept. 29 to update information about COVID-19 cases and isolation requirements.
HURON PERTH – On Sept. 9, the Huron Perth Public Health (HPPH) Board of Health met via Zoom to approve Medical Officer of Health (MOH) Dr. Miriam Klassen’s compensation, as well as to receive the MOH’s report.
For the compensation of the MOH’s salary, the HPPH Board of Health receives two pockets of funding for the MOH-CEO position. The Ministry of Health then provides additional funds through the MOH Compensation Initiative. After this funding, the board is then required to populate the rest of the salary. With Dr. Klassen having four years experience at the top level, the board approved the undisclosed salary that includes a stipend of $12,000 for being on call 24/7. In 2021, Klassen was paid $427,366.42 for her annual salary. This compensation is reviewed annually and was approved by the HPPH board to sign the report to receive these additional dollars.
After the compensation approval, Dr. Klassen then went on to discuss her report, highlighting two specific components.
Firstly, she discussed the amalgamation of the Perth District Health Unit and the Huron County Health Unit in January 2020 into HPPH, which saw multiple components and facets paused due to COVID-19. Pieces of the amalgamation were ignored due to the pandemic but now are being completed, as HPPH is moving forward and restarting programs that haven’t occurred in over two years. Klassen relayed that this could be a positive opportunity as the amalgamation now has “fresh eyes and energy.”
The second part of the report that Dr. Klassen touched on is COVID-19 and that Huron Perth is “moving forward with recovery”.
The COVID-19 portion of the report was thorough, looking at the changes made both locally, nationally and internationally, but ultimately looking at continuing down the path of normalizing COVID-19.
HPPH only receives reports of lab-confirmed cases of COVID-19, due to PCR testing being limited to individuals with a higher risk of severe outcomes from COVID-19. Individuals ineligible for PCR are recommended to use rapid antigen testing. If individuals are sick, they must isolate until they have improved for 24 hours with respiratory symptoms and 48 hours with gastrointestinal symptoms. The 10 day isolation period still applies to individuals who are immunocompromised. Additional precautions of avoiding high-risk settings, wearing a mask, etc. for a 10 day period apply if an individual has caught COVID-19, has improved and is no longer isolating at home; an individual has been exposed to someone with COVID-19 but has no symptoms or; an individual who tested positive for COVID-19 but has no symptoms.
“So now, we’re moving in the community, mostly to people assessing their individual risks and making choices about masks and what kind of activities they wish to participate in,” Klassen stated.
A part of the reason for these regulations is that at this point in the pandemic, there have been some significant changes. There is a higher level of population immunity, which is due to a combination of vaccination and infection. Further, individuals six months and older have access to vaccines, and babies under six months of age are partially protected by the immunity they receive from their mother.
Specifically in Huron-Perth during the summer, HPPH saw similar trends to overall provincial COVID-19 trends.
“Cases, hospitalizations and outbreaks declined until the week of approximately June 12 when they spiked. After that, case counts, hospitalizations and outbreaks mirrored the provincial trends, increasing until late July/early August with some signs of decreasing or plateauing after that,” states the report.
For the current wave of COVID-19, wave seven spanning from June 15 to present, there were eight additional deaths as of Aug. 24.
“We’ve moved a long way from March 2020… and [COVID-19 is] much less of a threat than it was,” stated Klassen.
The HPPH Board of Health will have an in-person meeting on Friday, Oct. 7 at the Stratford Rotary Complex.
Melissa Dunphy, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Listowel Banner