Dr. Hugh Guan, Acting Medical Officer of Health (MOH) for Kingston, Frontenac, Lennox and Addington (KFL&A) Public Health, provided his final regular COVID-19 update to the local media on Wednesday, Oct. 13, 2021.
“This will be my last COVID-19 update in the acting MOH role, I believe. Next week, Dr. Oglaza starts. So, you may be seeing him around a little bit more for these media meetings, or if he gets me to do them, you’ll see me again, but at the very least, my last one as acting MOH,” Dr. Guan began.
Dr. Piotr Oglaza will take the reigns as MOH on Monday, Oct. 11, 2021, Guan relayed, and he will, in turn, return to his position as Associate Medical Officer of Health.
With a variety of topics to discuss, Guan began with an overview of how the KFL&A region and Ontario as a whole are currently faring in the COVID-19 pandemic. With seven new cases of the virus reported today, the region currently has 15.9 cases per 100,000 people, which would put it in the former Yellow level, Guan said.
“Across the province, we continue to do quite well. I believe the past two or three days, we were in the 300 to 400 case range per day. That may be because there’s less testing over a long weekend, but overall, the percent positivity is still maintained, is still pretty low,” he explained.
“So, all in all, it does appear that the seven-day average across the province is also flattening or slowly going down in terms of hospitalization, and… ICU admissions [are] hovering around that 150-ish mark around the province for COVID.”
As it is currently about six to seven weeks since the beginning of school at all levels, and as people have begun to congregate more with loosened restrictions, Guan seemed pleased with the stability of the data pertaining to COVID-19 cases.
“So, all in all, as a community, as a province, we are doing quite well, in terms of our fourth wave. So again, thank you to everyone for flattening the curve, especially in this fourth wave,” he said.
“The fact that we continue to have a very flat curve speaks quite well of moving further along into the fall and winter.”
Currently, there are three outbreaks being monitored by KFL&A Public Health. All known cases in the outbreak at École Élémentaire Publique Madeleine-De-Roybon are currently resolved, and Public Health is simply awaiting the two-week time frame since the detection of the most recent cases in that outbreak to pass, before declaring the outbreak over. There are two other outbreaks, currently, one of which is in a retail setting, and the other which is within an institutional setting that Guan described as “contained.” There are about 14 individuals connected to these outbreaks currently, and Guan said KFL&A Public Health will keep the community updated if more cases are detected.
Local vaccination rates
With a quick overview of the data pertaining to local vaccination rates, Dr. Guan relayed that, currently, 88.4 per cent of those 12 and over have received their first dose of COVID-19 vaccine, and 83.7 per cent have received their second dose. He said there continues to be a “slow and steady increase” in those being vaccinated, and that “we continue to see lots of first doses going into the arms, which is the good news story there,” before mentioning that Pfizer and Health Canada are currently working towards approving the vaccine for those aged five to 11, which he hopes to see happen before the end of 2021.
Changes to the reporting of COVID-19 data locally
On Tuesday, Oct. 12, 2021, KFL&A Public Health announced there would be changes coming to the way local COVID-19 data is reported via social media.
“The province is changing the way we report new cases. As of Oct. 7 we will no longer post daily to social media. We thank everyone who is fully vaccinated. Please keep following PH advice to prevent the spread of COVID-19. For case updates visit: kflaph.ca/Dashboard,” the local Public Health unit said in a tweet, which caused a fair deal of commotion within the community. That tweet has since been removed.
Dr. Guan clarified that the provincial government did not mandate that KFL&A Public Health stop providing the updates on social media.
“So, I just want to clarify that the changes are based off both the provincial system changing, but also us (KFL&A Public Health) streamlining the process internally… We’re not stopping the reporting altogether; we continue to update the dashboard daily. And we’ll continue to see what we can do on the Twittersphere. It might be more of a simplified information, but we are just streamlining information there,” he said.
“So, it’s not completely stopping reporting, we’re just changing the format a little bit.”
Guan said that “streamlining” referred to work taking place behind the scenes, and said that the information that KFL&A Public Health has been providing via social media – the number of new cases in the region, the gender, age and acquisition mode of those case, and any new outbreaks – is available either on the KFL&A Public Health Dashboard, or through the provincial data provided on Government of Ontario websites.
Upcoming events of concern
Although Queen’s University has announced that Homecoming 2021 is to take place virtually, Dr. Guan said there are some concerns about the street parties and other similar party-like gatherings that are generally associated with the annual event. This year, Homecoming weekend will begin on Friday, Oct. 15.
“We just want to remind the community that we all have a role in keeping our health care system functional, so trying to keep our ER clear, keeping our roads open for emergency vehicles, and preventing the spread of COVID-19,” he said.
“So again, if people are celebrating, just recommend folks to continue to think of being a little smart about it and think about all of the Public Health recommendations that we have, like, if you have (health) conditions, please avoid crowds as, masking if you’re able to, [and] if you’re not vaccinated, please get back to all the Public Health recommendations we have.”
Guan underlined that all of KFL&A Public Health’s enforcement partners, such as Kingston Police and City of Kingston Bylaw, are well aware that Homecoming takes place this coming weekend and ready to respond as needed.
Guan also discussed Halloween briefly, saying he is not as concerned about the holiday, since it tends to involve more “transient interactions.” He recommended those participating in trick or treating wear a mask, even if their costume already involved a mask, simply because costume masks are not designed to prevent the spread of viruses.
“Probably avoid huge gatherings of individuals going out trick or treating. So, if they’re in family units, or very close families that are together anyways, that’s perfectly reasonable,” he said, noting that trick or treaters should still try to limit interactions as much as possible, and that any residents who are sick in any way should remain at home and not participate in festivities.
Flu shots locally
As of this week and last, influenza vaccinations have been delivered to “high risk” settings, such as long-term care homes, hospitals, retirement homes, and correctional facilities, Guan explained.
“There’s about over 10,000 doses distributed to the different settings, and I know a lot of [healthcare] partners are beginning the influenza vaccination campaign. In the next few weeks that will expand to different other settings, including physician offices and pharmacies,” he said, suggesting that residents check in with their family physicians or local pharmacies to see when the flu shot will be available. There will be a bit of a staggered release based on provincial supply, he said.
“I highly recommend influenza vaccination as influenza vaccination is one of the best things we can do to protect against influenza, and we really don’t want that double wave, especially in the winter,” Guan concluded.
“I think we flattened the COVID wave, but we really don’t want to see an influenza wave on top of it, as our ICUs, even though they’re steady, they’re still 150-some-odd COVID patients within them (provincially). So, as you can imagine, they’re pretty full from COVID itself. So, we really don’t want to have influenza on our healthcare system.”