After reaching an all-time high count of active COVID-19 cases earlier this week, Dr. Kieran Moore said those numbers are dropping, but we’ve still got a long way to go – which might include the month of May looking a lot like April has thus far.
The Kingston, Frontenac, Lennox and Addington (KFL&A) region hit its peak in active COVID-19 cases on Tuesday, Apr. 13, 2021, with 136 active cases that day. Since then, that case count has slowly reduced as cases have recovered. But with the local active COVID-19 case count hovering well above 100, and yet another provincial announcement looming, Dr. Moore, Medical Officer of Health for Kingston, Frontenac, Lennox and Addington (KFL&A) Public Health, spoke with members of the media on Thursday, Apr. 15, 2021, to provide an update and the outlook on the pandemic situation locally.
“Our rate of illness is 43.6 [cases] per 100,000 [people]. That’s still higher than I’d ever liked to see. But relative to the rest of the province, we’re not doing too badly. We have two people still in hospital, one of whom is in the intensive care unit setting, receiving additional oxygen, but not requiring ventilation at present, which is also good,” Moore began, before cautioning that the good news doesn’t mean the area is in the clear.
“Our risk has never been higher in our community. Traveling right now outside of our region, the rates go up four-, five-, six-times higher than we’re currently experiencing. So please adhere to this: stay local, support local, and stay in your household as best you can. Because that will keep you safer, during this very treacherous, dangerous time of April,” he continued.
“We have an awful April and May to get through.”
Latest outbreak: Royal Canadian Legion Branch 631
Moore expressed sadness with regard to the current outbreak at the Royal Canadian Legion (RCL) Branch 631 in Collins Bay. He said that Public Health does not know yet whether or not the individuals infected through that outbreak were aware they’d contracted the virus, or if those individuals had been out and about in the community. Public Health is currently conducting an investigation into that outbreak he said, and, to date (Thursday, Apr. 15, 2021), nine individuals that attended the Legion location on Bath Road in Kingston’s west end have been linked to the outbreak.
“I’m so sorry that transmission occurred in that setting. I hear that they wore their masks, and they tried to do their physical distancing as best they could. But this variant of concern, it can spread in a close confined space fairly quickly, in 15 minutes or less contact time. So I’m very sad that it’s occurred,” Moore said.
“We’re monitoring their health of the nine individuals today on a daily basis, and giving them guidance, and then working to protect those around them to minimize transmission in the community. We haven’t seen any significant transmission of those nine to others,” he continued, noting that many of those infected through the outbreak are older, or “near my age,” and therefore at risk for negative outcomes associated with COVID-19.
Moore clarified that the exposure to COVID-19 at the RCL Branch 631 was from Thursday, Apr. 1 to Saturday, Apr. 10, 2021, as opposed to the earlier-announce exposure
The outlook for vaccinations in KFL&A
Dr. Moore explained that the region will see a reduction in vaccine supply in the coming weeks, and said he both understands and supports the concept of prioritizing vaccines for hotspots that are currently in precarious situations.
“KFL&A has one of the highest vaccination rates, and yet we’re one of the lower risk areas,” Moore said. “So I would absolutely understand if they had to use some of the vaccine now for the highest risk areas of the province where the case counts are just way, way too high. And too many patients are in hospital today.”
He underlined that he believes the KFL&A region will continue to see a steady flow of vaccine supply, and that the region should not see the cancellation of already-scheduled vaccination appointments, as Public Health has planned for the reduction.
“Yes, at the end of this month, we’ll have a reduction somewhat in our Pfizer supply. But we haven’t overbooked our clinics, we won’t. We don’t expect that we’ll have to cancel anyone’s appointments for our mass immunization clinics,” he said.
“Our pharmacies locally received over 2000 doses of AstraZeneca this week, and have been immunizing as well. So I was very happy to receive that extra amount of vaccine,” he added.
Moore also noted that the large supply the region has received thus far is due to KFL&A’s participation in the provincial pilot program for vaccinations through pharmacies.
The rate at which the population in KFL&A has been vaccinated is something to celebrate, Moore said. Currently, 32 per cent of the adult population in the region has received their first dose of vaccine, which is “an exceptionally good number for Ontario.” Even more cause for celebration is the fact that 95 per cent of the over 80 population has received their first dose, and 12 per cent of that population has received their second dose and “are fully protected,” he explained with a large grin.
“So we’re doing relatively well and absolutely understand the need for the provincial strategy to go ahead to support those that are most at risk… For KFL&A, we’re a little ahead in the province and, for equity, redistributing to the highest risk areas make sense to me,” he said.
“And I want to commit to the community that we have not overbooked our clinics, we’ve booked for the available vaccine that we have. You won’t be hearing from us that we’ve cancelled appointments.”
When asked if any doses of vaccine are being wasted, Moore said he was pleased to say that’s not the case at all. In fact, he pointed out that residents who are eligible for vaccination are able to look for cancellation appointments, which tend to fill up quickly, too.
“You can always check online for any cancellations in our clinics of individuals that perhaps got vaccinated elsewhere and didn’t cancel their appointment for their booking at one of our centers, the [Strathcona] Paper Centre or the INVISTA centre,” he said. “So that is a good strategy, if you are able to monitor the provincial booking system.”
As for the exact numbers, Moore said KFL&A typically gets 4,680 doses of the Pfizer vaccine weekly, which then go to the mass immunization clinics across the region.
“And those doses are absolutely put in arms. Every week, nothing is left in our fridges or freezers,” he reiterated.
At the end of the month, from Monday, Apr. 26, 2021 going forward, the number of Prizer vaccines coming into KFL&A will go down to 3,510 doses for three weeks, a reduction of around 1000 doses.
“But as I said, there won’t be any cancellation appointments,” Moore said. “And we should be receiving a significant amount of very shortly and again at the end of April.”
Reopening or use of Breakwater Park
Moore said he was aware of a petition that is circulating to allow staff members from Kingston General Hospital (KGH) to access Breakwater Park after it was closed to the public on Friday, Apr. 9, 2021. And while he expressed that he understood and appreciated the idea, it is simply not feasible.
“Well, it sounds like that’d be very hard from an enforcement standpoint. I do understand the staff at the hospital wanting to get out for lunch and in an open space,” he said, noting that he doesn’t anticipate the park being closed any longer than the end of the month.
“Our case count is due to head in the right direction, although they’re still too high at present. I know the Mayor will be reviewing that on a regular basis,” Moore said.
“So, stick with us. It shouldn’t be much longer.”
As for the situation across the road at KGH, which recently announced its ICU was stretched beyond capacity, Moore said that, with the number of new cases and hospitalized cases rising daily across the province, local frontline healthcare workers will continue to receive patients from hospitals that are facing even more difficult situations.
“All intensive care settings across the province are ramping up to build capacity to provide additional care to patients from across Ontario. So our services are preparing extra beds. They’re preparing the staff, and they’re preparing ventilators,” he said.
Which leads back to the same trusted instructions Moore reiterates every chance he can: Stay home as much as possible (Public Health even prefers that households have their groceries delivered if possible), practice good hand hygiene and physical distancing, and wear a facial covering when you cannot physically distance.