For anyone who thinks the current stay-at-home order in place across the province is not as serious as the ones that have come before it, Dr. Kieran Moore, Medical Officer of Health for Kingston, Frontenac, Lennox and Addington (KFL&A) Public Health puts it all into perspective.
“This is going to be a dangerous month, all of April will be dangerous,” he said during a press conference on the afternoon of Friday, Apr. 9, 2021.
Moore explained that, across the province, 4,227 new individuals have tested positive for COVID-19, and that the number of people being admitted to hospital across Ontario is increasing dramatically, especially the number of people requiring intensive care. In total, 552 individuals are currently in intensive care settings across the province.
“We are not alone, in that we have had an increase in cases as well in KFL&A. We have 16 new cases today,” he said. “Our total number of active cases 103, we have three people admitted to the hospital at present.”
Luckily, none of the local cases of COVID-19 that are currently in hospital are in the intensive care setting, as local hospitals have reported that ICUs are already stretched beyond capacity (and have now postponed elective and non-urgent procedures).
Moore shared a story that highlighted the plight healthcare workers are facing, across the province, but also right here in Kingston. Yesterday, on Thursday, Apr. 8, 2021, large groups of young adults gathered at Breakwater Park, the popular waterfront park on King Street directly across from Kingston General Hospital (KGH). That occurred just after Moore declared a COVID-19 outbreak in the University District, and led to the closure of the park to the public. The park is normally a popular place for students at Queen’s University, which is currently experiencing a new wave of COVID-19 cases.
“I heard from an anesthetist that was waiting at the air ambulance base, opposite Kingston Health Sciences Center, yesterday. She was anticipating the arrival of a COVID patient, intubated and ventilated, a younger person arriving from Toronto,” Moore relayed, his tone flat as he looked seriously into the camera during the virtual press conference.
“And she had to look across Breakwater Park, and her jaw just dropped,” he continued.
“In the middle of a pandemic, where we’re having 10, 15, 20 people admitted now from elsewhere to Kingston Health Sciences Center, to look across and not see people adhering to best practices to try to limit the spread of this virus made her call me directly.”
Moore said that was one of many calls Public Health received yesterday from people upset that the pandemic isn’t being taken more seriously.
“This virus is more aggressive, and spreads more quickly, is more virulent, and we are tired. We want to get back to normal life, but in April, we cannot do it.”
It is the rising number of cases involving variants of concern (VOCs) that is most alarming about the “new kind of pandemic we are fighting,” Moore said. And while he said he is happy to see that it appears no transmission has occurred from those cases involved in the University District outbreak to the larger general community, he is concerned that the University District outbreak cases indeed involve VOCs – most likely the B.1.1.7 variant, though there may be other variants, as well, he said.
“In fact, the vast majority of the cases are associated with variants of concern. And that’s another reason I drew attention to it. We’re very concerned,” he said.
“We know they spread very quickly in this environment with minimal social contact. And it really reiterates the reasons why we have to decrease their number of social contacts – No house parties, no large parties, everyone in this community has their role to play to decrease the risk,” he said, reiterating that the requirement for ICU care for COVID-19 patients with the B.1.1.7 variant is two times higher than the baseline strain of COVID-19, and the risk of death is 1.5 times higher.
“I’m saddened that [this variant] continues to transmit within this student off campus population. I don’t want any one of them getting ill enough to have to be in the hospital… I am confident that with great partnerships with the off campus students with Queen’s University, we can get this under control and limit the spread, but it’ll be a lot of work.”
Moore admitted that he didn’t want to close Breakwater Park initially, but said that we “don’t have enough enforcement” to have gone with any of the other options, such as increasing patrol of the area. Having said that, he underlined that enforcement is taking and will continue to take place.
“So one thing I’d just like to make clear: Once the emergency is declared, and the limited enforcement of KFL&A Public Health can put in play [are in place], the police, [and] bylaw [officers] are allowed to put in the ticketing and the enforcement capacity,” he said.
“This is the broad based enforcement. So all partners have to work together to enforce. It’s just difficult to enforce every single park in every location of the City of Kingston. What we really need is the community to set the standard of what we expect as a community, and to adhere to best practices,” he continued.
“We’ve done it in the past, we’ve been brilliant at limiting the spread of this virus, and I have complete confidence we can do it again.”
Enforcement in April thus far
According to Dan Hazell, Supervisor of Licensing and Enforcement for the City of Kingston, charges are being pursued for three different incidents that have occurred since the beginning of April as follows:
- Bylaw enforcement attended a call for an illegal social gathering that occurred between Friday, Apr. 2 and Wednesday, Apr.7, 2021. Charges are being pursued for a violation of the Reopening Ontario Act.
- Bylaw Enforcement identified an outdoor social gathering while on patrol on the evening of Wednesday, Apr. 7, 2021. Charges are being pursued for a violation of the Reopening Ontario Act.
- Bylaw Enforcement was dispatched to the area of William St. and Barrie St. for a report of an illegal social gathering of approximately 15 individuals the night of Thursday, Apr. 8, 2021. Charges under the Reopening Ontario Act are pending in that investigation.
Because those matters are currently open investigations, no additional information can be disclosed at this time.
Additionally, Bylaw Enforcement also issued the following penalty notices under the City’s Administrative Monetary Penalties program between Friday, Apr. 2 and Wednesday, Apr. 7, 2021:
- 6 notices for amplified noise
- 2 notices for shouting/yelling
Lastly, on Thursday, Apr. 8, 2021, three notices were issued for violations of the Mayor’s Emergency Order shortly before 8:00 p.m. at Gordon Downie Pier at Breakwater Park. The fines associated with those notices totalled $6,180 in Administrative Monetary Penalties.