Outside is the best place for gatherings of family and friends this spring, in order to minimize the risk of COVID-19 exposure and maximize your enjoyment of social camaraderie, Dr. Piotr Oglaza reiterated. Dr. Oglaza shared his recommendations on Friday, Apr. 29, 2022, in his bi-weekly COVID-19 press conference as Medical Officer of Health (MOH) for Kingston Frontenac Lennox & Addington (KFL&A) Public Health.
“As the weather warms up, I would like to remind the community that outdoor activities and outdoor gatherings are generally safer than indoor gatherings, and the weather is certainly helping us to meet with friends and family outdoors,” the MOH said. “Finding opportunities to spend time with family and friends outdoors is a great way to ensure the gathering is as safe as possible, and enables us to maximize that level of protection for some of us that might be more vulnerable.”
The core of Public Health’s message remains as it has been throughout the pandemic: get all vaccine doses for which you are eligible, stay home when you feel any symptoms, wear a mask in indoor spaces where physical distancing is difficult, cover your sneezes and coughs, and practice good handwashing and hygiene at all times.
Furthermore, if you have had a bout with the virus already, delay your next dose for three months from the time of infection. “It’s not that the booster dose will create any adverse effects at that point, it’s purely to maximize the benefits that someone gets from the booster,” Dr. Oglaza explained.
He continued, “The duration of protection [from an immunity-boost after infection] is not fully known or understood, [and] it might be different in different individuals… [So], we’re still recommending boosters, but we recommend that the booster dose is deferred for three months.”
“While we are seeing progress with our community’s hard work to reduce the impact of COVID-19,” Dr. Oglaza stated, “the virus continues to spread in our region and our data shows that the overall percent positivity in wastewater concentration trends is hopefully stabilizing. It is too soon, though, to confirm this, and we will continue to monitor the trend and keep the community informed.”
He explained that from mid-January up until today, we have seen short-term stabilization or decreases in wastewater indicators for the virus. “And so, we are looking for longer-term trends before we can confidently assess a plateauing of this sixth wave. “
The day-to-day data still shows significant fluctuation, he said, “and monitoring long-term trends will actually provide us with much more meaningful information and information that we’ll be able to share with our community.”
“For this reason,” Dr. Oglaza explained, “we will be changing our dashboard frequency update to Tuesdays and Thursdays moving forward, for more of a long-term presentation of our trends. We will continue to monitor all of our indicators closely to gain an accurate understanding of the activity of COVID-19 in our area. We’ll also continue to monitor the severity indicators.”
As of today, hospitalization counts remain fairly stable in KFL&A. “We currently have 13 individuals in hospital due to COVID-19 and, unfortunately, have had one additional death. The recently-hospitalized have had shorter stays in hospital compared to the Omicron hospitalizations in December and January,” the MOH said. “Within that sixth wave, there is a decreased severity [of the disease] over all [of] the population levels. The number of patients in the ICU has recently increased slightly, but we continue to have very low numbers of patients ventilated, so a very relatively low number of people who are the most severely impacted by COVID-19.”
And while some indicators seem to be plateauing, Dr. Oglaza noted, “As we see more data points, evidence still shows high levels of virus circulating in the community. And this is important because this risk of infection and severe illness are more impactful, and more serious for some individuals, especially those who are immunocompromised, individuals with underlying health conditions…[and] older individuals are generally more susceptible.”
Dr. Oglaza reiterated that the aforementioned protective measures continue to be effective interventions for reducing the spread of COVID-19. “In addition to that, most importantly, our KFL&A region has the highest rate of booster uptake in this province. We are approximately 10 per cent higher than the provincial average, and our region has just over 80 per cent four-dose coverage for those 60 years and over, and that’s also in the context of very high coverage for the third dose in the eligible population… So, that’s a really excellent level of protection [for] many of the most vulnerable individuals.”
“This high booster rate has helped lower severity and limit the number of cases in the hospital [in KFL&A], and that’s a really significant message,” he said, offering one final concluding encouragement. “Stay up to date with the vaccine and get all the doses you’re eligible for.”