Dr. Moore responds as Kingston reaches highest COVID-19 levels yet

Dr. Kieran Moore, Medical Officer of Health for KFL&A Public Health. Kingstonist file photo.

Dr. Moore is calling the outbreak of COVID-19 at Gananoque Chev Buick GMC Cadillac a “superspreader event,” as the number of cases linked to that location rises to 37.

“We’ve had 12 direct cases associated with that, plus seven of their contacts. So 19 positive individuals from there,” he explained on Friday, Dec. 11, 2020. “Leeds, Grenville and Lanark (LGL) District Health Unit, in which Gananoque is located, have 18 separate cases… so it seems to be a superspreading event at that venue.”

Dr. Moore made the comment during a press briefing on another record-breaking day for COVID-19 cases in the Kingston, Frontenac, Lennox & Addington (KFL&A) Public Health region.

Public Health confirmed 24 new cases Friday — the highest single-day case count yet — amounting to another historic high of 94 active cases.*

“The total number of contacts, so those are individuals that were high-risk contacts of the cases, is over 600,” Dr. Moore noted. “And sadly, we have one patient in the Intensive Care Unit (ICU), but he’s not on a ventilator. We have a number of areas of activity in the community.”

Additional cases announced on Saturday brought the total active case count in the region to 100.

Outbreak updates

Besides the car dealership in Gananoque, Public Health is currently monitoring a number of developing outbreaks at a wide range of venues in the community.

“As you’re aware, we had a place of worship that now has a total number of 16 cases. Thirteen were directly associated with the place of worship, and there were three secondary contacts, so the total is now 16,” Dr. Moore said. This is an increase of three cases since his outbreak update on Thursday, Dec. 10, 2020, reported on Friday morning.

By Saturday, that number had risen to 17 cases associated with the church.

“We had a community health clinic that had an outbreak, and there were seven individuals who attended that clinic. Then 16 of their high-risk contacts have turned positive, so that’s 23,” he added.

Additionally, Public Health is investigating several cases linked to off-campus student parties.

“We have been investigating a rise of cases off-campus associated with the student age group. We have a couple of investigations going on, but we have a total of 25 younger individuals living off campus who have tested positive. One of them is a St Lawrence College student,” he said.

Queen’s University has reported 24 cases of COVID-19 in their community this week, a sharp rise from six the week before and zero cases the two weeks preceding. The vast majority of those cases were reported in the past 48 hours.

There are four area public schools under investigation, with individuals in quarantine:

Finally, Dr. Moore noted that Public Health is monitoring an outbreak that occurred in a homecare setting and has infected six individuals. Five of those cases are still active.

“We’re able to still connect the dots among all of these cases, which is important from a Public Health vantage point. But it’s still quite disconcerting to have so many cases as we head into [the holidays],” he said.

“Many of them are associated with travel, so travel was the initiating risk that brought the virus into the community.”

‘Absolutely heading into Orange’

Dr. Moore said the local COVID-19 data indicates “that we’re absolutely heading into the Orange” Community status, under the provincial framework for Public Health restrictions.

“Our rate of infection is 29.1 per 100,000 per week, and the cut-off for Orange is 25,” he explained.

He also noted that the seven-day rolling average for percentage of positive tests is also creeping up, currently hovering around one per cent. Orange community status is activated at 1.5 percent.

“The Chief Medical Officer of Health informed me that they’re going to review our numbers again on Monday, but …we can stay in Yellow at present. They are going to keep a close eye on our region,” he said.

Protecting the vulnerable

Nine months into the pandemic, Dr. Moore said that one area that KFL&A Public Health region has clearly excelled at is protecting vulnerable individuals.

“We’ve protected our long-term care facilities and our retirement homes to date. But as soon as the community rates rise like this, we have to be very, very careful in any congregate setting, including our correctional facilities, our long-term care, our retirement homes and hospitals. There have been numerous outbreaks in hospitals in southern Ontario, and we want to prevent that.

“It almost is inevitable that we’ll have outbreaks again in vulnerable settings if these numbers go up, that’s what’s happening everywhere else in North America,” he added.

He reiterated once again the importance of people in the area maintaining a high level of vigilance, to continue to diligently wear masks, avoid crowds and practice good hand hygiene.

“I’m sure you’ve seen what’s going on across Ontario. It is hitting new records, as well,” he said. “The key number that we watch is the number of people in the ICUs across the province. Sadly we have over 800 Ontarians in the hospital, 235 of them in the ICUs, and 124 individuals having to be ventilated to stay alive.”

Holiday festivities: go virtual

Heading into the holidays, Dr. Moore implored people to connect virtually rather than visiting outside their households, noting his own sons will not be travelling home for Christmas.

“Those are the sacrifices I think we have to make, especially as our rates are rising at a community level,” he said.

“Consider not going out to the box stores if you have any vulnerability. I haven’t been to Costco in three or four weeks, or any other box stores, but when I was there last I was upset to see so many older people out shopping – and I’m not young myself.”

He suggested people place pick-up orders from local stores and restaurants. “Please feel free to support your local restaurants, many of them have takeout now, many of them have delivery as well. That’s very important to continue to support our local economy.”

Anyone that is vulnerable to the virus, he said, should consider avoiding any public sites, including places of worship.

“I think we’re clearly seeing a really rapid rise in cases, and in every instance, the virus is spreading quickly whenever you mix or socialize, don’t maintain the precautions, or let your guard down,” he said.

*Editor’s note: During the conference, Dr. Moore revealed there were 96 active cases of COVID-19. By the time the KFL&A PH dashboard was updated later that afternoon, the active case load had dropped slightly to 94.

With files from Tori Stafford and Samantha Butler-Hassan

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