This article is Part 1 in a two-part series updating the local community on current COVID-19 conditions in the region, and specifics regarding particular outbreaks, incidents, or situations. Part 2 will be published on Friday, Nov. 5, 2021.
With the Kingston, Frontenac, Lennox and Addington (KFL&A) region reaching a total of over 90 active cases of COVID-19 – and with five active outbreaks totaling 28 cases – the rising number of COVID-19 cases was top of mind during this week’s media update from KFL&A Public Health.
On Thursday, Nov. 4, 2021, Dr. Piotr Oglaza, Medical Officer of Health for KFL&A Public Health, addressed the local media for his bi-weekly COVID-19 update. The same day, the total number of active cases in the region reached 91, with 15 cases connected to the outbreak at the Integrated Care Hub (ICH), and 13 cases connected outbreaks in area schools.
Dr. Oglaza began by offering an overview of the current state of the pandemic in the region.
“In the KFL&A region, our cases are unfortunately rising,” he said. “Our percent positivity is now at 1.47 per cent, and our case count per 100,000 population per week is 31.9.”
Additionally, 89.6 per cent of the population aged 12 and over have received their first dose of COVID-19 vaccine, while 86 per cent of the same population has received their second dose. Despite the highest peak in vaccine uptake in KFL&A occurring in July, Oglaza said there has been a recent increase in those receiving their first and second doses, largely due to the recent outbreaks in the area.
Despite the current spread of the virus, Dr. Oglaza expressed satisfaction with the speed at which Public Health teams have worked to contain that spread.
“Our contact tracing team has done a great job by quickly identifying contacts. Seventy per cent of all our active cases were [already identified as] close contacts before testing positive – this means that they were at home isolating, limiting transmission,” he explained.
With Public Health having issued a public release regarding a positive case being detected at Muddy Waters restaurant in Verona the same day, Oglaza explained why that situation was made public by the local Health Unit when the outbreak at the ICH was not.
“The main difference and the rationale for posting information about… a particular location [is] that we’ve seen a case of COVID-19… in a situation where we wouldn’t have the complete list or the complete information of who might have been a contact, who might have been exposed to that case,” he said.
“Someone might have visited the restaurant and unless we… [have] that information posted… that person may never know that they were a high-risk contact. ”
“And that’s what’s important to distinguish between a situation where we can account for high-risk contact for cases, such as in the situation we followed at the Integrated Care Hub, versus a restaurant where it may not be clear who has visited, who was potentially exposed,” he continued.
He stressed that the reason for going public is only when it serves the public health interest and is in the interest of protecting others who might have been potentially exposed.
Outbreak at Integrated Care Hub (ICH)
The current outbreak at the ICH, which has seen its unhoused clients who have tested positive isolated in trailers and tents, was a main topic of the discussion. Dr. Oglaza spoke about the risk of spread to the larger community.
“When we are working with a population of individuals who are experiencing homelessness, who are under-housed, this is a fairly isolated and closed group. So, the interaction between members of this group and community – those experiencing the same risk factors of not having a place to stay and not having a home – that’s …not an exposure that impacts… other individuals in the community,” he said.
“As far as the rest of the general public, or individuals in the community not linked to this defined population, that risk would be extremely low.”
In terms of whether or not he expects further spread through the outbreak, Oglaza again referred to the efficient work of Public Health teams in identifying potential close contacts.
“Interestingly, linked to our earlier discussion, because this is a fairly isolated group to begin with… we can establish who the high- risk contacts are, [and] we offer testing to those high-risk contacts. And if we see more cases, they would have been already among individuals who are asked to self-isolate [as high-risk contacts],” he explained.
“So, while there might be more cases, [those cases] would be within the defined population of people that we would expect they potentially could become cases based on their exposure to previously known cases.”
He explained the role a lack of COVID-19 vaccination among the homeless population played within the ICH outbreak, as well.
“With regards to this outbreak…we see a number of individuals there who are either not vaccinated or not fully vaccinated. It’s typically been a harder group to reach out to. We’ve been offering immunizations to this group from the early stages of the vaccine rollout, understanding the vulnerability of individuals under these life circumstances,” he said, noting that some of those vaccines may have been given in the absence of a Health Card, so that record may not always be in the provincial system.
Part 2 of this series will offer Dr. Oglaza’s thoughts and updates on the Section 22 Order issued at J.A.K.K. Tuesdays, outbreaks in area schools and what parents and guardians need to keep in mind, and looking forward to COVID-19 vaccinations for the five to 12 age group in Ontario.