COVID-19 status update from KFL&A Public Health: ‘crucial week’ ahead

Kingston, Frontenac, Lennox & Addington Public Health office in Kingston

Dr. Kieran Moore said that the number of COVID-19 cases associated with last week’s outbreaks is starting to level off.

Speaking to the press on Monday, Dec. 14, 2020 Dr. Moore provided a status update for the Kingston Frontenac Lennox and Addington (KFL&A) Public Health region. “Our numbers are coming down. We’re not in the 20s that we saw last week,” he said, in reference to the daily COVID-19 case counts. KFL&A Public Health reported a record-high 24 cases on Friday, Dec. 11, 2020, and reached 100 active cases over the weekend. Only seven new cases were reported on Monday.

“Today’s results reflect testing on Saturday and Sunday. We still had good testing numbers, hundreds of people coming in,” he said.

“The major ongoing risk is the high number of students that have tested positive off campus, downtown. That is a significant worry for us, as we know they’re very social.”

Queen’s University has confirmed 38 cases of COVID-19 in their off-campus community since Monday, Nov. 30, with the majority of the cases reported in the past week. St Lawrence College has also reported one case in that time.

“For every student there’s roughly 10 to 20 contacts,” Dr. Moore said. Currently, Public Health is in daily contact with approximately 600 individuals identified as high-risk, close contacts of confirmed cases of COVID-19. Those individuals are asked to test for COVID-19, to isolate and monitor their symptoms for 14 days.

“The vast majority of our contacts are associated with students, off-campus, downtown. On average outside of the student population it’s usually below 10, five to 10 high-risk contacts. Much smaller numbers and more manageable for us.”

He noted that KFL&A Public Health is working closely with Queen’s University to ensure there’s no spread on campus.

“One good thing is we’ve not seen any significant activity within the residences. All the protocols that Queen’s has put in place to safeguard the residences seem to be working and we’re very happy about that,” he said

KFL&A Public Health outbreak updates

Dr. Moore provided the following totals for the outbreaks Public Health has been tracking in December:

Place of worship – 24 total confirmed cases
Local health clinic – 24 total confirmed cases
Gan Chev dealership and collision centre — 22 cases in KFL&A Public Health region, plus at least 12 in the Lanark, Grenville and Leads Health Unit.
Homecare outbreak — five total confirmed cases.

“These are the maximum total case counts,” Dr. Moore said. “Some of these will start to resolve as they finish off their isolation. I’m happy to say those major outbreaks have peaked and those numbers will be coming down.”

Dr. Moore commended KFL&A constituents for coming forward to get tested.

“We have one of the highest testing rates in the province. Two percent of our population gets tested every week. We cannot do this work without people coming forward to get tested, and that system is working very, very well. Big thank you to everyone…. As a result I think we can get these numbers down.”

Dr. Moore added that the community is entering a “crucial week” heading into the holiday season. “We really have to lower the risk, and lower the transmission of this virus…I know we’re going to want to socialize but this holiday season has to be different. It cannot be an accelerant of our cases.”

There are currently two people hospitalized with COVID-19 in the KFL&A Public Health area, with one of them in the Intensive Care Unit (ICU), not on a ventilator. Preserving healthcare system capacity is one of the main goals of COVID-19 prevention measures.

“If the holiday increases our rates, we’re going to have a very difficult January trying to limit the spread of this virus,” Dr. Moore said. “This virus can lead to serious illness, it can lead to hospitalization.”

Yellow, Orange or Red

Dr. Moore said the region’s numbers are holding steady in a manner consistent with the Yellow level of Public Health restrictions under the provincial framework for reopening Ontario.

“We flirted with the Red, with those major outbreaks we had last week,” he said, referencing a protection level two higher than our current status. “But they’re under control now. And I don’t see our numbers coming back unless we have any other major outbreaks.”

Moving into the Orange level of protection is still not off the table.

“It certainly is reasonable given our current numbers to move us into Orange. The only gap we see is our outbreaks are limited and controlled, our impact on the healthcare system at present is quite small, and the percentage of our tests still doesn’t meet the criteria. Only one of the four criteria are being met and that’s simply the number of cases in the community,” he explained.

He said decisions to change a Public Health region’s status are typically made by Ontario Health on Wednesdays, confirmed by cabinet and announced on Fridays, and implemented on a Sunday nights at midnight.

“We’ll know this week how well our community is doing,” he said.

Dr. Moore implored people to plan virtual get togethers for the upcoming holiday season, rather than socializing with people outside their households. “We want a safe holiday season where you can be comfortable in your household and connect virtually to your family,” he said.

Samantha Butler-Hassan, Local Journalism Initiative

Samantha Butler-Hassan is a staff writer and life-long Kingston resident. She is a news junkie and mom who loves reading and exploring the community. This article has been made possible with the support of the Local Journalism Initiative.

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