KFL&A Public Health’s Dr. Oglaza addresses curbing community spread, vaccinating children

After issuing a Class Order pursuant to Section 22 of the Ontario Health Protection and Promotion Act on Friday, Nov. 26, 2021, Dr. Piotr Oglaza, Medical Officer of Health at Kingston Frontenac Lennox & Addington (KFL&A) Public Healthheld a COVID-19 update briefing with members of the press.

Pursuant to the order, as of Saturday, Nov. 27th, 2021 at 12:01 a.m., private gatherings indoors are limited to ten people.

This action is intended to curb the spread of COVID-19 in KFL&A, by limiting large private gatherings, “What we’re trying to accomplish here is to set a tone or set the expectations in the community that large gatherings in private households, in private settings, are probably the highest risk of spread in the community and could result in that in that spread.  So setting that expectation and a model for individuals in the community on a population level will result in decreased risk of transmission.”

Dr. Piotr Oglaza, Medical Officer of Health at Kingston Frontenac Lennox & Addington Public Health (KFL&APH) held a COVID 19 update briefing with members of the press via Skype. Screen capture.

Dr. Oglaza noted that with the holiday season approaching, individuals should reconsider plans for multiple social gatherings, with different cohorts of people at each gathering. “Individuals might be meeting in different groupings of 10, and that’s certainly something that this order is not addressing. But what it is addressing is, is that understanding that we are in the middle of the fourth wave and we have to alter our behaviour. We cannot be interacting the same way as we have been over the course of the summer where the disease activity was lower and the risk of transmission was lower as well.”

Community spread continues to be a problem, he noted, pointing out that most of the current rise in cases is a result of individuals catching COVID-19 and bringing it home to family members. “If we start seeing patterns of spread occurring elsewhere, or additional elements that are possible to address through measures like Section 22, that’s certainly something that I’ll add to the list of recommendations and restrictions in this region.” 

To lessen the burden on the emergency health care system, Dr. Oglaza urged individuals who feel unwell to seek a PCR test rather than going to the emergency room, a walk-in clinic, or booking an appointment with a primary-care physician. “We need to keep that vital capacity open for the community. So someone who is otherwise feeling well and they just need to get tested, I do really urge them to continue checking with the assessment center continue looking for appointments there, look at other avenues, but not to go to emergency unless they are experiencing severe symptoms or concerning symptoms themselves.”

“And,” he explained, “I think that’s it that’s a really important point and also something that’s concerning; with the rising cases is that we might start seeing that spillover effect from primary care to emergency departments to [hospitalization] and this is that vital capacity of healthcare that needs to be preserved.”

Addressing the region’s rising case count, he said, “As of today, we had an additional 32 new cases and that brings us to 87.9 cases per 100,000 per week. So we continue to experience a high volume of cases, which are numbers that are exceeding what we’ve seen so far throughout this pandemic. Our percent positivity is also elevated, it’s at 2.49.” 

Dr. Oglaza also addressed changes to the COVID-19 case data for KFL&A Region Dashboard. “In terms of our vaccination numbers, you might see some of the changes in our dashboard and they’re because of two major developments. First of all, we started using the updated Stats Canada numbers for the population denominators. So, while the number of doses that we know were administered remains the same and unchanged, the percentage of the population is adjusted based on these new denominators. So that actually brings our coverage rates slightly up and that’s because the 2020 Stats Canada numbers are at about 2% lower than what we were using as our estimates.” 

He clarified the current vaccination rates based on these new denominators. “So, looking at the ‘12 and over’ population with a first dose, it’s 92.1 per cent. And based on the same metrics, our second dose ‘12 and over’ population is 88.8 per cent.”

“But,” he explained, “because we now have an additional age group eligible for immunizations — that’s the population from five to 11 years old, which is approximately 13,000 people — when we look at our population of eligible individuals in the KFL&A region, we are going to use the denominator number from anyone five and above. So that changes our overall vaccine uptake to 85.3% for anyone five and over for the first dose, and 82.3% for anyone five years of age and older fully vaccinated.”

Dr. Oglaza explained that an additional change that’s coming to the dashboard is “the visual representation of our epidemiological situation” referencing the previously-used provincial colour-coding framework. “Many of the residents of KFL&A region might still remember the green, yellow, orange, and red zones: we will be using those indicators to demonstrate where we are and where we would have been in that previous framework. So we are currently in the red.”

The dashboard will now also use a graph to visually represent the rate of cases among the vaccinated and unvaccinated population. “This will be updated weekly, based on our weekly counts,” he explained. 

Alexander Tanguay was one of the first Children 5-11 years of age that got vaccinated at the clinic held at Napanee District Secondary School Thursday, Nov. 26, 2021. Photo courtesy of KFL&A Public Health.

“One thing that I wanted to share with you, which is really excellent news,” emphasized Dr. Oglaza, “is that we started to open vaccination bookings for children five to 11 earlier this week, and we already had a clinic, and there’s a number of individuals already immunized through that clinic. As of today, our number of vaccination bookings for these five to 11 clinics are now approximately 5500 appointments booked through different clinics throughout the region. So that’s just under 50% of that [5 to 11-year-old] population.”

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