Acting Medical Officer of Health, Dr. Hugh Guan, provides COVID-19 update for KFL&A

Dr. T. Hugh Guan, acting Medical Officer of Health for KFL&A Public Health, speaks with the media via Skype on Thursday, Jun. 17, 2021.

Kingston, Frontenac, Lennox and Addington: Meet Dr. Hugh Guan, the region’s current acting Medical Officer of Health after Dr. Kieran Moore moved into the position of Ontario’s Chief Medical Officer.

Previously, Guan served as the Director of the Infectious Disease Prevention and Environmental Health Division at KFL&A Public Health. He completed his medical training at McMaster University and Queen’s University, and is certified in Public Health and Preventive Medicine. He has also received a Master of Science in Public Health at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, and is most interested in communicable diseases.

On Thursday, Jun. 17, 2021, Dr. Guan provided his first weekly media COVID-19 update for the Kingston, Frontenac, Lennox and Addington (KFL&A) region, and began by introducing himself with a smile and a laugh as he referred to the rather large shoes he’s now filling following Dr. Moore’s departure from KFL&A Public Health.

“I’m the associate Medical Officer of health here at KFL&A public health. And in my current role acting on medical officer of health now that Dr. Moore has entered the big leagues as Chief Medical Officer of Health for Ontario,” he said, noting that he’ll be the one providing media updates for the region moving forward. He shared a laugh with reporters as he reminisced about speaking with Moore about “some virus that was popping up” back in early January 2020, and also shared a bit of his own views on the region and how its faring after the third wave of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“So, I’d like to just, again, thank the community for everything everyone has done. I am very cautiously optimistic – my staff, they’re probably sick and tired of me saying ‘cautiously optimistic’ – But I truly am cautiously optimistic of the path we’re treading,” Guan said. “Cases have dramatically dropped over the past few weeks.”

With one new case announced in the region on Thursday, Jun. 17, 2021, and two cases recovered since the day before, there are currently three known active cases of COVID-19 in the region. Two of those cases are hospitalized, with one of them in ICU, however, Dr. Guan relayed that he understands both of those patients are now considered stable.

He went on to explain that the current percentage positive of COVID-19 tests in the region is currently 0.4 per cent, and, with about 1 per cent of the population being tested, the region is maintaining its track record for a decent testing rate. Under the old provincial colour-coded system, KFL&A would currently be in what was considered a Green Zone, he said.

Vaccination rates and rollout

Earlier in the week, KFL&A Public Health announced that over 75 per cent of the regional population aged 18+ have received their first dose of a COVID-19 vaccine, something Guan touted as good news for the area.

“And I’m also happy to report that we’re at 18.6 per cent of adults receiving at least two doses vaccination,” he said.

“I also have some more good news in the sense of… a mass influx of Moderna vaccinations that are coming to us over next two weeks, I believe the federal government has mentioned somewhere close to 3 million doses to Canada over the next few weeks,” he explained of a developing announcement that actually went public during the press conference.

“That is also translating locally whereby we are getting also additional Moderna through all our different channels, including primary care [physicians], pharmacies, as well as Public Health units.”

Minutes later, the provincial government announced that “accelerated second dose eligibility” is continuing “ahead of schedule.” This means the following, in terms of who will be eligible for second doses in the coming weeks, according to the Government of Ontario:

  • As of Monday, June 21, 2021 at 8:00 a.m., all Ontarians who received their first dose of an mRNA COVID-19 vaccine on or before May 9, 2021 will be eligible to book or rebook their second dose appointment at a shortened interval.
  • As of Wednesday, June 23, 2021 at 8:00 a.m., individuals who received their first dose of an mRNA vaccine on or before May 30, 2021 and who live in the catchment area of one of the 10 public health units identified as Delta hot spots (Durham, Halton, Hamilton, Peel, Porcupine, Simcoe-Muskoka, Toronto, Waterloo, Wellington-Dufferin-Guelph, and York public health units) will be eligible to book or rebook their second dose appointment at a shortened interval.
  • Starting the week of June 28, 2021 (days / sequence to be confirmed) all Ontarians aged 18 and over who have received their first dose of an mRNA COVID-19 vaccine will be eligible to book their second dose appointment. The appointment will be scheduled at least 28 days after the first dose, per the recommended interval.

Read the full details of the provincial announcement here.

“Estimated over this week and probably the same as next week, we’re receiving locally about 30,000 combined [doses] of Pfizer, Moderna, and AstraZeneca,” Guan said.

“So we’d like to just have folks monitor our social media and website, because the key is currently setting up appointment links and appointment slots for all of this material coming into the community. It will be available through a variety of different means, including pop up clinics, primary care [physicians], pharmacies, as well as through the Public Health unit,” he continued.

“So there will be increased amount of appointments available to the community very shortly.”

Guan emphasized the need for those who have found a sooner appointment for a vaccine dose to ensure they cancel any previously scheduled appointments in order for those appointments to be freed up for others.

The Delta variant

When asked about the delta variant of COVID-19, Guan explained that, when he first learned of it, he was very concerned, as is the case whenever a new variant is discovered. However, through his research, he’s become less and less concerned – particularly as the population has become more and more vaccinated.

“The provincial strategy is to kind of contain the Delta variant right now, it seems to be mostly in the GTA, as well as some other Public Health units. But with more research about the Delta variant, I’m becoming, again, using the words cautiously optimistic,” he said with a smile.

“Some of the recent research about the Delta variant shows that even with one dose, although it may not prevent symptomatic illness – so people may still get sick from it – it still seems to be quite effective against hospitalization and death,” he explained. “However, I would still recommend two dose vaccination because having two doses of the vaccine is still shown to be that much better, versus one dose, for both hospitalization and death, but also against symptomatic disease.”

Guan said “we’re not seeing much” of the Delta variant in KFL&A at this point.

Dr. Guan: Maintain recommended Public Health measures

Laughing as he once again reiterated his cautious optimism, Dr. Guan expressed that now is not the time for everyone to disregard or stop practicing the measures that got the local population this far in the first place.

“KFL&A is do so well right now, and I would hate for us to suddenly have a huge surge of cases because we’ve just suddenly completely let our guard down,” he said.

“I would still be cautious. We know that the immunity is best two weeks after two doses. So if folks only have one dose, or they were just recently immunized with the first dose or two second dose, their immunity is not at the [full] rate, as we know that immunity builds up over time… A person is considered fully immune about two weeks or 14 days after their second dose,” he continued.

“Also, I would just be cautious just because previously in different reopenings, there have been slight surges in cases after reopening steps. So I just want to have folks, again, adhere to all the best public health measures of staying home if you’re sick, getting tested if you’re sick, washing your hands, and masking and distancing if you’re going to be around others.”

While the slow reopening of things like patios for dining or golf courses for recreation, the population needs to continue to adhere to those best practices – and that includes refraining from much travel, Guan explained. For those in KFL&A, travel in southeastern Ontario is the only travel suggested.

“So KFL&A, Hastings-Prince Edward, and Leeds-Grenville-Lanark, I believe, have the lowest rates of COVID within Ontario. So the messaging for right now is still to stay local and support local, because, locally, our region has probably the lowest risk amongst all of Ontario,” he said.

“We just need to get past this little hump,” he concluded.

“Hopefully, everything kind of calms down a bit across the whole province. And maybe in the future, we can be much less cautious. But for right now, I would still want to maintain that caution, and for people to stay local and support local.”

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