With 154 new COVID-19 cases, 1,557 active, and two new school outbreaks, the Kingston, Frontenac, Lennox and Addington (KFL&A) region still has the highest rate of COVID-19 infections in the country, according to Dr. Piotr Oglaza, Medical Officer of Health (MOH) for KFL&A Public Health.
“Unfortunately, we are still number one on that table,” Oglaza said at a virtual press conference on Wednesday, Dec. 22, 2021. “There is strong evidence that there is spread happening throughout the community. The predominant variant is Omicron.”
Despite high testing rates, the KFL&A region also continues to see a very high positivity rate of around seven per cent. What that indicates is that there is significant community spread, and that there may be a number of cases that have not been reported yet.
Oglaza warned that the incubation period of the new Omicron variant is as early as two days. That means that if someone was exposed to the virus, they start being symptomatic in two days and are already transmitting the virus to others — There might be significant spread already occurring from that one case and their contacts before they get tested, Oglaza explained.
“We might be reaching a point where contact management will have diminishing returns. The message to the public is to stay home when sick. It is now [even] more important with the Omicron variant.”
According to Dr. Oglaza, the rate of infection in KFL&A—as of end of day yesterday—is 500 cases per 100,000 people, with the cases of infection highest in the 18 to 29 age group.
“The incubation period of the new Omicron variant is as early as two days. That means that if someone was exposed to the virus, they start being symptomatic in two days and are already transmitting the virus to others.”– Dr. Piotr Oglaza, MOH, KFL&A Public Health
“We continue to see the spread among the younger demographic. The reality with the spread among [those aged] 18 to 29 [is that] this is the segment of population who value social interactions. They are less likely to be sick, [and are] likely to engage in social interactions, despite symptoms. We urge those individuals to be really mindful of symptoms and not engage in social interaction while symptomatic. That is the key to slowing this spread,” the MOH explained.
Another way to minimize the impact of the Omicron variant is through booster shots, Oglaza said. KFL&A has so far administered over 56,000 doses for third dose coverage.
“That is a high number considering that third dose roll-out started only recently. On December 20, we administered 9,000 doses throughout the region in one day,” he said,noting that the region has also reached a milestone 90 per cent first dose vaccine coverage for its population who are five years and older.
For those individuals who tried to get the third dose of the vaccine, but were unsuccessful, Oglaza had this to say: “Please, please be patient with us. We will get that third dose to you. We have sufficient doses of Pfizer and Moderna vaccines. Our clinics and other avenues are not impacted by [shortage of supplies]. I’m pleased to see the strong demand for third doses.”
Indoor gatherings pose the highest risk for the spread of the virus. Oglaza acknowledged that many individuals in the community have already altered their holiday plans.
“We know that many individuals are planning a cautious approach. Those who are fully vaccinated—the vaccines (will) prevent severe disease, but we will still see spread happening,” he said.
Dr. Oglaza advised that anyone who feels sick needs to self-isolate, whether or not they are tested, as “they are most infectious when they are symptomatic. For those [who test[ positive, the most at-risk are household contacts.”
Ultimately, according to the MOH, it is up to the public to take the advice of the KFL&A Public Health. He offered “three principles” for all KFL&A residents to follow with Christmas weekend ahead.
“Protect themselves, protect each other, protect the community,” Dr. Oglaza stated. “I trust that we can do that in this community.”