Active community participation in vaccination programs, COVID testing, and best practices have contributed to another week of positive outcomes in the Kingston, Frontenac, Lennox, & Addington Public Health Unit area.
“I want to thank the community that’s come forward and gotten tested and all those that have stepped forward and been immunized. We are making remarkable progress in terms of increased protection of our community through immunization,” said Dr. Kieran Moore, Medical Officer of Health for Kingston, Frontenac, Lennox and Addington (KFL&A) Public Health in an online meeting with the press on Friday, May 28.
“Right now, as of today, we’ve had two new cases. We have seven individuals recovered today. So, the number of active cases in our community is down to 18,” he explained, “That’s great news for KFL&A.”
“If you recall, just a few weeks ago, we had cases over 100 heading towards 150 and our rate of illness now is at one of its lowest levels in a very very long time. So we’re at 3.3 cases per 100,000 people over the last week,” he said, putting those figures in perspective.
Also, KFL&A is doing extremely well compared to other areas in the province (chiefly in the GTA) that have over 100 cases per 100,000. “So,” Moore said, “we are very happy with that.”
“A very low percentage of our tests are positive despite many people getting tested every day, we have hundreds of people getting tested, coming forward with symptoms and or high risk contacts, and only 0.28% of them are positive for COVID-19. If you look elsewhere in the province, some of the positivity is up to 10 or 11%. So we continue to do remarkably well,” Dr. Moore went on.
“And on the immunization front, 60.3% of those 16 and over in our community have received their first dose” of one of the vaccines, said Moore. “We’ve immunized over 116,433 doses to KFL&A residents since this program began, and over 16,000 doses have been administered just in the last seven days.”
“We absolutely expect this volume of patients to be able to be immunized to continue throughout June,” Dr Moore continued. “We have a very good supply chain of the Pfizer vaccine, and we’re hearing that we may even get more and more of the Moderna vaccine — so the two mRNA vaccines which are very similar — we expect to have an abundant supply for June, and potentially, we’ll be able to increase the number of clinic spots that we have. So very good news on that front.”
When will the second dosing begin?
For those in need of a second dose, Moore said, “As we increase our first doses, we’ve heard from the government that they’re now allowing second doses, particularly for those that are 80 and over, they’re allowed to start booking on May 31 to receive their second dose.”
He wanted to “also celebrate that 100% of over-80s in our community have received their first doses, which is truly remarkable and 17% even received their second doses.”
“As of May 31, on Monday, they’ll be able to book their second dose appointments, and we’ll be able to shorten the time frame [they have to wait] to give them the best protection which is very very good news.”
At a provincial level, Moore said, “they’ve also told us that they will drop those age bands to allow second doses, as they monitor bookings and availability of product across Ontario. And it’s expected that, as of June 14, those that are 70 and over will be able to start to book their second appointments, and hence we will continue to protect those who are the most vulnerable in our community.”
“So very positive news, both on the very low incidence rate of COVID-19 in our community, as well as our ever increasing capacity to immunize and protect individuals in our community.”
For those who have been vaccinated by their pharmacy and primary care facilities, “pharmacy partners are receiving a regular supply of a Pfizer vaccine and Moderna vaccine together with our primary care partners whom we’ve been working with all along through our mass immunization clinics and designated clinics.”
“So,” he explained, “you’re hearing that all health system partners, the hospital primary care pharmacists, and the health unit are working together to try to maximize immunization and we’ll keep doing this throughout the summer months for first doses and second doses, with the goal that we provide vaccine to every citizen of KFL&A who wants it, and provide the second dose in a shorter time frame, as we can to build protection heading into the fall.”
AstraZeneca second doses
Though there had been some suggestions by the provincial government, including from the Solicitor General and the Premier, that there was an urgency to use AstraZeneca vaccines immediately that are set to expire May 31, Moore said, “I am confident that we have enough AstraZeneca products for second doses for anyone who received it as the first dose…I know we received roughly 4000 doses to distribute to our pharmacy partners in the last several days — and that’s been a lot of work, ensuring that they get to the right place at the right amount. And our pharmacy partners have been brilliant in distributing those doses chiefly for those patients who from March 10 to 19 received their first doses of AstraZeneca.”
“I think all of those 4000 doses will be put in arms over the next several days and the vast majority has already been administered through our partners, so I have to celebrate that quick turnaround by all of our pharmacy partners,” Dr Moore said.
Moore said he fully supports a return to school for local kids. “I’ve had direct conversations with leaders within the ministry reemphasizing that we’re very confident that we are, together with our school boards our teachers, our parents and students, that we can have a safe reopening. The level of illness in our community is exceptionally low relative to anywhere else in the province right now. And we are well in the green at 3.5 cases per 100,000. And so I do think we can open very safely.”
“We tested around 250 people just at Beechgrove Assessment Center yesterday and had one or two positives only, and they were high risk contacts that we already knew about. So we’re not finding a lot of new cases within our region,” Dr. Moore said.
“So with our low rate of illness in our community, the low percentage positivity of all of our testing, and the high immunization rate in our community: those three signals alone, tell me that we can open our school safely.”
Dr. Moore emphasized the brilliant cooperation of the schools with their rapid assessment testing of any high risk situation where they thought a child, or teacher or worker could have had COVID. “We’ve had rapid turnaround of those tests and rapid containment and we’ve had very, very, very little spread in any of our school settings so I’m very confident we can continue that great partnership.”
Dr. Moore fully supports a region by region opening plan for schools. “I quite admit that rates across the province aren’t the same as ours, and in some instances, they’re 30 to 40 times higher than ours right now, and that it makes it more difficult in those regions to open. But in our region I absolutely gave the green light to the Ministry [of Education].”
What should we expect next?
Summer is looking like it will get better and better, said Moore. “I think together as a country, as we all achieve higher immunization rates, our country becomes safer day by day, and hence that post-pandemic era for all of us will allow I think safe travel across Ontario and Canada, and almost back to normal and post-pandemic wise for August, but we’ll all still have to be monitoring symptoms (and) getting tested.” Moore assured residents we can be proud of the way Canada is handling the pandemic, well on the way to having one of the highest vaccination rates in the world.