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'No time to be complacent,' says Niagara top doctor after 22 cases of COVID-19 linked to Kingston nail salon

Two new cases discovered in Thorold residents, municipal breakdown show
Dr. Mustafa Hirji. Photo: Thorold News archive

Several new cases of COVID-19 linked to a nail salon in Kingston, Ont. serves as a reminder that the deadly COVID-19 virus is still present, and an outbreak could occur anywhere, anytime.

That is the message from Niagaras acting medical officer of health, Dr. Mustafa Hirji as the region moves past the one week mark of its Stage 2 reopning.

“We can’t be complacent. This occurred even though the workers were wearing masks,” he said to Thorold News.

On Sunday, Kingston health officials confirmed that the outbreak had grown to 22 cases, including six employees, six customers and nine close contacts.

More than 500 customers who visited the salon have been told to self-isolate and monitor for symptoms of the virus.

In Niagara the numbers keep holding steady at a couple of cases per day without any real pattern, Hirji said.

But on a thin strip of land, south of the U.S border it is another story.

“They have taken a complacent attitude and are seeing a much larger amount of cases. Even though New York state has seen a decrease as of late, it is still building around them. It is not a good situation.

Hirji added that the border restrictions keeping new cases from New York state from flooding in is another essential line of defence for Niagara region.

“Border restrictions will be a part of life here in Canada.”

Many were concerned with the potential effect of the massive protests over police brutality a few weeks back, that saw hundreds take to the streets in Niagara, enraged over the death of George Floyd.

But despite the massive numbers, Hirji said the protests does not seem to have had a big impact on the numbers locally.

“It looks like we may have gotten lucky that we are not seeing much evidence of cases growing from the protests. One thing that benefited us was that we had a low number of cases to start with. Byt just because we got lucky one time does not mean we want to tempt it. It is like Russian roulette, where you have a one out of six-chance of losing.”

On Monday morning, Public Health had confirmed a total of 750 cases of COVID-19 in the region since the first case was discovered in March 13.

Most were found in Welland, where health care facility outbreaks now declared over drove the case count to 213 in Total.

24 Thorold residents have been infected with the virus, the municipal breakdown shows.

A couple of those cases have been found in recent weeks.

Out of all cases in Niagara, the vast majority have recovered.