A surge of COVID-19 cases in the Kingston, Frontenac, Lennox and Addington (KFL&A) region over the last week is concerning, showing that we are deep into the fourth wave of the pandemic. This was expected, said Dr. Piotr Oglaza, Medical Officer of Health at KFL&A Public Health, in his COVID-19 update to the press on Wednesday, Nov. 10, 2021. This emphasizes the need for people to continue getting tested if they have symptoms, and to stick to the basics like staying home if feeling unwell.
“Currently, we have 126 active cases and close to 500 active contacts that we are following. Our rate per 100,000 population in seven days is now 48.8,” said Oglaza, the significance of that number, he explained, “is that this is among the highest illness rates we have ever seen in KFL&A and we haven’t seen this magnitude of cases per 100,000 since back in the third wave in the spring of this year.“
“Our current percent positivity in the last seven days is 2.1 per cent. So, that is also one of the highest percent positivity rates for testing that we’ve seen in this region.”
“At this point, we are testing about 1.6 per cent of the population a week. That’s the metric we use to determine how many people are seeking testing in this area,” he said, explaining that this is a lower testing rate than we had during the second and third wave. “And the importance of this is we want to remind people residing in KFL&A to please get tested and isolate if they have symptoms, that’s going to help us get a handle on this on this surge.”
He also emphasized the importance of the high vaccination rate in KFL&A, which is at 89.8 per cent for the first dose and 86.4 per cent fully vaccinated. “This has made a significant impact to the fourth wave because of the efforts of everyone in this community,” he said.
Currently, he said, “when we look at our rate of cases in the unvaccinated population versus vaccinated populations, it’s about six times greater in the unvaccinated. So, that is one indicator that confirms what we’ve been communicating all along: that vaccines do work and provide significant relief.”
“Unfortunately, we are dealing with a surge and the fourth wave was predicted in the past looking at the modelling. We know that the magnitude of that fourth wave is, fortunately, less than the worst-case scenarios that were contemplated in the past,” he said.
“But we still need to be vigilant,” he reiterated. “We’ve been there before. We’ve experienced surges as a community during the first, second and third waves.”
Oglaza reminded the population not to be complacent despite COVID fatigue, and to get back to the basics.
“And by basics, I mean staying home when sick, testing, wearing a mask, washing your hands, and, of course, get vaccinated. These are very simple interventions. These are the basics and they do remain relevant when we are going through the fourth wave.”
Outbreaks among the vulnerable
Asked about the current outbreak and community spread of COVID-19 among clients of the Integrated Care Hub, Oglaza confirmed, “we’re working with the City of Kingston Office of Emergency Management, preparing, coordinating and supporting that collaborative effort among the community partners to respond to the increasing number of COVID-19 case clusters.
“The first one that we were aware of was the Integrated Care Hub, but outer clusters were happening simultaneously. So, this is an indication of that spread in the vulnerable population,” he said, explaining, “We are we’re working with our community partners on addressing a number of clusters in the community impacting vulnerable populations; many of the individuals are not vaccinated [or not] fully vaccinated, many of them are in vulnerable conditions either from the perspective of their own health or their life circumstances.
“And so,” he continued, “that’s something that’s really the focus of our partnership with a number of community partners, with service agencies, and with the municipality, the City of Kingston.”
Enforcement for non-compliance
Regarding businesses in the region like JAKK Tuesday’s and The Spot nightclub that remain open despite the documented violations of the Reopening Ontario Act, Oglaza addressed the former and said, “As you remember, a section 22 order has been issued on November 3, our Public Health inspector confirmed continued non-compliance with the requirements of the order. And there were a number of visits to this particular location on November 5, 8 and 9 and we continue to work with our partners and we’ll keep you informed on the situation. That enforcement process is in the works and we’ll update you as soon as I have more information to share.”
Will more restrictions be imposed?
Questioned about restrictions being imposed by other municipalities, Oglaza said it is possible it could happen here, but that he would have to see a number of factors before implementing any interventions.
“The response of local Public Health is based on local epidemiological situation and the evidence behind the spread: if we continue to see cases appearing and clusters that are conducive to targeted interventions, there’ll be no need for implementing broad community-wide restrictions,” he explained.
“If the situation changes, that will be assessed on the basis of what you’re seeing in the community. And at this point, I don’t have any evidence that the spread that we’re observing in the KFL&A region would be contained better with these broad interventions. So, that’s something we’ll be monitoring very closely; if and when a situation arises that the spread requires additional interventions, we will consider them and implement if needed to protect the health of KFL&A residents.”