While the sixth wave of the COVID-19 pandemic appears to have peaked, with the transmission of the virus on the decline, Medical Officer of Health, Dr. Piotr Oglaza, told the press on Thursday, May 12, 2022, that Kingston, Frontenac, Lennox and Addington (KFL&A) residents should not yet let down their guard.
“We see that the sixth wave has reached its peak, has plateaued, and is now gradually decreasing. However, due to the height of the disease activity during the sixth-wave peak, we are not in the clear yet,” stated Oglaza.
The area has seen a significant drop in new high-risk cases, with only 110 reported by KFL&A Public Health yesterday, bringing the total number of active high-risk cases to 506.
Sadly, however, five more people have died from COVID-19 in KFL&A since the first of the month. Oglaza offered condolences to families and friends of those who have died. The total number of deaths in the region since the pandemic was declared in 2020 is now 55.
“The predominant feature of that sixth wave is that we’re dealing with a different pathogen… We’re dealing still with COVID, but with a different variant that was highly transmissible,” Oglaza explained. “There have been reports of maybe lower severity of Omicron, but still, for those who are really frail, for those who are in that most vulnerable position, even slightly less severe virus might still be enough to really strain their health and sometimes result in outcomes such as death. Unfortunately, this truly is the feature of a virus that spreads very easily: that sometimes, despite all the measures being followed diligently, it’s still impossible to contain, and the best protection comes from vaccination.”
A total of 11 people from KFL&A are currently hospitalized due to COVID infection: three are in intensive care, and one person is on a ventilator.
Public Health will continue to monitor hospitalization rates, test results, and levels of the virus in wastewater, Oglaza explained, pointing out, “Even though [case numbers] have continued to decline, our levels are still very high.”
Asked about the instances of long COVID and who is most at risk, Oglaza stated that those most at risk are unvaccinated people. This is just another reason why, he stated, “If you haven’t already, I encourage you to get your first, second, or third dose. It’s not too late, and individuals can still benefit from the excellent protection that the vaccine provides.”
Oglaza reminded the public, “It is a sad reality of COVID-19 that those who are most vulnerable are those who are immunocompromised, or just, by virtue of age… are particularly frail. So, what’s really key here is that we continue to offer protection to those individuals.” That protection, the MOH noted, is particularly important in health and long-term care settings.
With the beautiful weather we have been experiencing, Oglaza is optimistic that things will improve going into summer.
“It’s much easier now to follow the advice of interacting with others outdoors and having the windows open, and that is one of the safest ways to interact with others. That is certainly something that I encourage individuals to do [for their health and mental health],” he expressed.
Again, however, his optimism came with caution: “We’ve seen in the past with any other respiratory pathogen that the… late spring and summer months are bringing a natural annual decline in any respiratory [illness] activity. Certainly, that hasn’t always been the case in previous years when we had a new variant around that time… COVID in the past has taught us to be humble and be very careful when making predictions, so while this is my sincere hope that warmer weather is our really strong ally in what we’re trying to accomplish in decreasing the disease activity in the region, we still need to be vigilant.”
“We can’t count on the warm weather alone to really help us get through this,” Oglaza concluded. “That’s why I encourage people to still get immunized.”
Even though there is warmer weather and less likelihood of infection during outdoor interactions, there is still a risk, especially to the vulnerable and unvaccinated, he said.