Kingston, Frontenac, Lennox and Addington (KFL&A) Public Health announced a new case of COVID-19, but said there is no reason to declare an outbreak in the region, nor at Queen’s University.
The new case brings the current number of active cases in the region to 16. The new case is that of a female aged 20 or under, but KFL&A Public Health is currently investigating that case and could not confirm whether or not it is related to Queen’s University or St. Lawrence College until that investigation is complete.
At a press conference on Tuesday, Sept.29, 2020, Dr. Kieran Moore, Medical Officer of Health for KFL&A Public Health said that the new case brings the number of active cases in the region to 16, all of which have been detected in the past two weeks. Moore said the local Public Health Unit is currently monitoring 119 people in total in the region.
“All of them are conforming to our recommendations of staying quarantined from others, and that’s very good news, and if they develop symptoms, we then suggest they get testing, or near the end of their 14 day observation period, we would suggest testing at that time.”
“An absolute majority of them are at Queen’s,” Moore said, noting that Public Health is detecting more cases in Kingston’s downtown core than anywhere else. Many of those cases are related to the Queen’s community, including some students who are currently in residence, as well as some students living outside of University residences.
“The 18 to 30 age group is of concern right now,” he said, confirming that the majority of new cases have been in females aged 20 or younger. “Numerous college and university towns across North America are seeing that this age group is vulnerable due to the increased number of social contacts contacting COVID-19. We’re just fortunate at this time that we have small numbers.”
However, these numbers do not indicate an outbreak in the region.
“There is no evidence of community spread at this time,” he said.
Unlike the situations in health care facilities, or elementary or high schools, having two cases within a post-secondary setting does not equate to an outbreak, Moore explained. For example, Western University has had four times the incidence of COVID-19 cases that have been experienced at Kingston’s post-secondary institutions, he offered.
“An outbreak would be a sudden increase, like what Western experienced with 37 cases… all secondary to an exposure, a house party, an event. We certainly haven’t seen that in any of our data. We’re seeing sporadic cases, some in residence, some off campus, not propagating – so when people have been asked to quarantine, they are quarantining appropriately,” Moore said.
“I’m happy that we’re not seeing the exponential growth that they had seen initially at Western… the system we have put in place is working.”
Moore said that, due to this sporadic activity and to limit spread within the residences, Public Health has asked Queen’s to ensure that people aren’t allowed to move around or socialize amongst numerous residences.
“They should be staying on their own floor, and not visiting other floors,” he said, noting that Public Health has asked Queen’s to consider adding a curfew if ongoing spread occurs.
“All of these actions and recommendations we’ve taken are being adhered to by the university, and, at the end of this week, we’re going to have a further conversation, as we monitor these cases and do further interviews with members of our community who have COVID-19 to ascertain risk.”
When asked who would declare an outbreak if one were to occur at a post-secondary institution, Moore said Public Health would leave that up to the institution to handle with Public Health’s support. If the institution were to not declare an outbreak within 24 hours of one occurring, Public Health would then move to declare the outbreak, he said.
Moore also addressed the backlog of those awaiting testing at the Assessment Centre. On Tuesday, Sept. 29, 2020, the Assessment Centre was forced close for testing after reaching capacity just before 2 p.m.
Moore said that Kingston Health Sciences Centre (KHSC) is currently looking at different ways to manage the testing, and noted that labs are processing tests at capacity. He pointed to some new ideas on the horizon that will possibly help ease the backlog. A number of local pharmacies have expressed interest in offering testing to asymptomatic patients (those who have to get tested for work, or to visit family in long-term care, for example), Moore said. Although pharmacies in the region are currently not allowed to offer testing, he said it is promising that pharmacies have already shown an interest, and that having asymptomatic testing take place at pharmacies would help maintain the flow of traffic at the Assessment Centre. Furthermore, Moore said that trials of “swish testing,” where a patient swishes a saline solution in their mouth before spitting it into a cup to be tested for COVID-19, are also very promising.
“This kind of swish testing would certainly cut down the wait times for testing… they would be much easier and faster to administer,” he said. Moore also pointed to Sharbot Lake Family Health Team and Lakelands Family Health Team administering tests in the more rural areas of the region as helping to reduce the number of those going to the local Assessment Centre for testing.
Moore concluded the press conference by underlining the work of Kingston Police and City of Kingston Bylaw Enforcement to put an end to large gatherings and high-risk behaviour. According to both KFL&A Public Health and Kingston Police, 28 charges were laid last week including:
- 18 nuisance bylaw charges
- 10 Emergency Order charges
According to Kingston Police, over the weekend from Friday, Sept. 25 to Sunday, Sept. 27, police responded to 55 noise complaints in the University District, issued seven Administrative Monetary Penalties (five for amplification, one for obstructing police, and one for failure to comply), and issued nine Liquor Licence Act charges (one of which was for public intoxication).
Finally, looking ahead, Dr. Moore said that he would hold another press conference in the coming weeks to discuss strategies for lowing risk of COVID-19 spread during the holiday.
“The good news is that less than one in 1,000 tests are positive,” he said of tests in the region, noting that the average positive rate for testing is 1.7 per cent.
“And I will say this again and again: Stay local, support local, support your local economy,” Moore said emphatically. “Every time you leave KFL&A or southeastern Ontario… your risk goes up.”