Editorial note: The following is a submitted Op/Ed in response to a recently published article regarding the COVID-19 media briefing delivered by Dr. Piotr Oglaza, Medical Officer of Health for KFL&A Public Health, on Friday, May 27, 2022.
I am writing to offer some rebuttal to the recent Friday, May 27, 2022, article in the Kingstonist entitled ‘Reassuring news’ from MOH as summer approaches, written by Michelle Dorey Forestell.
In this article KFL&A Medical Officer of Health, Dr. Piotr Oglaza, is extensively quoted concerning the current status of the COVID-19 pandemic in the Kingston, Frontenac, Lennox and Addington (KFL&A) region. I do not think the news is as reassuring as stated in the article.
The article states, as per Dr. Oglaza, that the KFL&A region’s death rate from COVID-19 is the lowest in the larger South Eastern Ontario region. During the most recent full month of April 2022, where we have complete data, KFL&A has the highest recorded death rate from COVID-19 in the South Eastern Ontario region. For April, KFL&A has a far higher death rate at 7.2 deaths per 100,000 population, compared to 1.8 in Leeds Grenville, 3.7 in Hastings Prince Edward County, and 3.5 in Eastern Ontario health unit regions that make up the larger South Eastern Ontario region. As for May, we have already reached 4.8 deaths per 100,000 population by KFL&A Public Health’s most recent report of Thursday, May 26, 2022.
The article also states that the COVID-19 case rate in KFL&A region is “far below previous peak levels,” as indicated by Dr. Oglaza. It is very important to recall that, as of January 1, 2022, publicly available COVID-19 testing was drastically cut back, resulting in an approximately 90 per cent reduction in the detection of COVID-19 cases after early January 2022. Because of this reduced testing Dr. Kieran Moore, Ontario’s Chief Medical Officer of Health, stated on March 3, 2022, during his press conference, that the reported numbers of COVID-19 cases needs to be multiplied by 10 to reflect the actual case numbers. Similarly, Dr. Peter Juni, then head of the Ontario COVID-19 Science Table, said the same thing on March 31, 2022.
When one takes into account the vastly under-reported actual number of COVID-19 cases in KFL&A, the most recently reported seven-day average of new cases of 18.4 cases/day, multiplied by 10, yields an actual count of 184 new cases per day. This level of COVID-19 is what the rates were in KFL&A in mid-December 2021 when we were hit hard with the new Omicron BA.1 variant, and before we stopped most of the public testing. Recall that the current Omicron BA.2 variant now circulating in KFL&A is more infectious than BA.1 was.
During my presentation to the KFL&A Board of Public Health on Wednesday, May 25, 2022, I presented the board members with some of the most current scientific evidence indicating that, given our mediocre level of coverage from the current COVID-19 vaccinations (with only 58 per cent third booster dose coverage), that wearing high-quality, well-fitting manufactured masks by a large proportion of the population inside indoor public spaces would prevent a new variant from surging to high levels again.
Given the high number of deaths we have seen in our region, most since the arrival of Omicron, and the actual high levels of COVID-19 that still exist in KFL&A, it is important that the citizens of KFL&A have access to high-quality information so that they can make well-informed decisions. This is the basis of what Public Heath is all about.
Dick Zoutman, MD, FRCPC, CCPE, C. Dir
Infectious Diseases and Medical Microbiology Specialist
Emeritus Professor, School of Medicine