Kingston Frontenac Lennox & Addington (KFL&A) Public Health has confirmed its first case of a new, more transmissible variant of COVID-19. Known as B.1.1.7, the variant was first detected in the United Kingdom, and subsequently Ontario, in December 2020.
In a move to quickly contain any further cases, Dr. Kieran Moore, Medical Officer of Health at KFL&A Public Health is asking people to consider voluntary, asymptomatic testing for COVID-19 if they have, in the past 14 days:
- travelled outside of the region — beyond Hastings, Prince Edward, Leeds, Grenville, or Lanark counties
- had visitors from outside the region,
- moved to the region
KFL&A Public Health says this asymptomatic testing initiative will be in place for a limited time, based on the outcomes and in consideration of the assessment centre and laboratory capacity.
“We know that one in five individuals with COVID-19 don’t have symptoms but carry and transmit COVID-19,” said Dr. Moore.
“With this new variant detected in our area, it is crucial that we alter our COVID-19 control strategies and recommend asymptomatic testing to those who have travelled or had visitors from outside our region to detect positive COVID-19 cases early and to isolate these cases to prevent rapid spread of the virus and outbreaks in our community.”
Additionally, out of an abundance of caution KFL&A Public Health said they are recommending a more proactive approach to comprehensive and timely case and contact management to limit the spread of this variant with the following public health measures:
- Isolation period extended to 14 days for all confirmed or probable cases of COVID-19
- Lower threshold for considering contacts to have had high risk of exposure (e.g., not masked for any duration of time and less than 2 metres from each other)
“Please remain vigilant and continue to adhere to public health measures over the coming weeks and months as schools begin in-person learning,” Dr. Moore said. “The continued efforts of individuals and families to stay home, stay local, and to not travel unless for essential purposes will help keep the number of positive cases low in our area and help our community stay safe until vaccines are available to all,” he added.
Public Health is also asking everyone to adhere to the following measures to keep COVID-19 from spreading in the region.
- Stay home
- Stay local and avoid travel outside the region
- Wear a three-layer face covering
- Stay 2 metres apart from others, especially in large stores like grocery stores
- Wash your hands or use hand sanitizer often
- Do not touch your eyes, nose or mouth
- Cover your coughs and sneezes
- Limit your close contact to those in your household
- Work from home, if possible
- Get tested if you have symptoms of COVID-19
Last week, public health officials confirmed that the new COVID-19 variant has been responsible for sickening nearly all the residents at a long-term care home outbreak in Barrie, Ontario.