WINDSOR, ONT. -- According to the Windsor-Essex County Health Unit (WECHU), the region has yet to see its first confirmed case of the COVID-19 virus.

At a news conference on Monday morning, Medical Officer of Health, Dr. Wajid Ahmed, updated reporters as to the status of the virus in the region and says the risk remains low in Windsor-Essex.

To date, 62 people have been tested for COVID-19 by the health unit, of which there are 13 tests pending results.

“We’re not surprised,” said Dr. Ahmed of the lack of cases in the community. “We’re hoping we can keep it that way.”

However, Dr. Ahmed admits it may be a matter of time before Windsor-Essex sees its first confirmed case.

“We will have a case. It’s not that we’re immune to it. We just want to make sure that at least our measures and our efforts are directed in a way to prevent a large scale spread of those cases in our community,” said Dr. Ahmed.

On Monday, the region’s first COVID-19 assessment centre opened at the Ouellette campus of Windsor Regional Hospital.

The health unit advises only those with symptoms of a fever over 38 degrees Celsius and/or a cough in addition to travel outside of Canada in the past 14 days, close contact with a confirmed case of COVID-19 or close contact with a person exhibiting symptoms or has recently travelled are to visit the new assessment centre or call the WECHU.

A self-assessment tool has also been made available by the Ontario government online. Those who suspect they may have COVID-19 can use the tool to determine if further care is needed and how to seek the appropriate treatment.

Recommendations from Ontario’s Chief Medical Officer of Health, Dr. David Williams, concerning the COVID-19 pandemic include limiting travel and enhanced screenings:

• All non-essential travel outside of Canada be suspended.

• Anyone traveling outside of Canada should self-isolate for 14 days upon return. If symptoms develop during self-isolation, including fever and/or cough call public health at 519-258-2146 ext. 1420.

• School Closures for two weeks following March Break.

• Child Care Centres must actively screen visitors, staff, children and parents for symptoms and travel history and exclude as appropriate.

• Long Term Care, Retirement Facilities, Hospice, and residential care facilities only permit essential visitors and actively screen visitors for symptoms and travel history, excluding entry if failed screening.

• Immediately suspending all large events or public gatherings of 250 people or more.

• Consult with local public health for further recommendations.

• University and Colleges consider virtual options.

Dr. Ahmed has a list of further recommendations:

• Practice social distancing where feasible, including avoiding large crowds.

• All area businesses should exclude workers for 14 days following travel outside of Canada.

• Anyone travelling outside of Canada should self-isolate for 14 days upon return and contact the WECHU if they develop symptoms.

• Commuters that cross to Detroit for work purposes should consider work from home options with their employer where possible and regularly self-monitor for any symptoms including taking their temperature.

• All public settings and workplaces should increase environmental cleaning practices and reach out to the WECHU environmental health department for support or questions related to disinfecting at 519-258-2146 ext. 4475.

• Create an emergency preparedness plan to ensure you have what you need in case of self-isolation.

• Wash hands with soap & water thoroughly and often.

• Cough or sneeze into your sleeve or a tissue. Dispose of tissue immediately and wash your hands.

• Keep surfaces clean and disinfected.

• Stay home when you are sick; call your health care provider for advice.

St. Patricks’ Day

In addition to cruise travel being determined to be high risk, the health unit is also advising residents to reconsider St. Patrick’s Day celebrations.

Recent guidance from the Ministry of Health recommends cancelling large gatherings and events of more than 250 people.

Residents are asked to take precautions to prevent the further spread of COVID-19 including social distancing, which asks to people to keep a metre or more between yourself and others when possible —particularly between those who are sick.

The health unit also recommends people avoid shaking hands, hugging and kissing.