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Vaccinations, variants, and an outbreak: A COVID-19 update for KFL&A

Dr. Hugh Guan, Associate Medical Officer of Health for KFL&A Public Health, speaks with the local media during his weekly COVID-19 update on Thursday, Jul. 8, 2021.

Update (Friday, Jul. 9, 2021):

As of Friday, Jul. 9, 2021, one more secondary case has been detected as part of the current COVID-19 outbreak at the Davies 5 unit of KGH. This brings the total number of cases associated with that outbreak to 14 primary (seven staff members and seven patients, with two patients being from outside the KFL&A jurisdiction), and four secondary cases.

Original article:

With 20 active cases of COVID-19 in the Kingston, Frontenac, Lennox and Addington (KFL&A) Public Health region, Dr. Hugh Guan, Associate Medical Officer of Health, provided an update on the current COVID-19 situation locally on Thursday, Jul. 8, 2021.

Three new cases of the virus were detected in the region on that day, two of which have been linked to the current outbreak at Kingston Health Sciences Centre (KHSC)’s Kingston General Hospital (KGH) site. That outbreak, which is on the Davies 5 unit of KGH, was declared in the early evening of Monday, Jul. 5, 2021, has now grown to include 14 primary cases (two of which are from another Public Health jurisdiction). Of those 14 primary cases, which means cases directly linked to the outbreak site, seven are cases amongst KGH staff, and seven are cases amongst patients. There are an additional three secondary cases, Dr. Guan disclosed, which are cases that were contracted through close contact with a primary case.

Prior to Guan’s weekly COVID-19 media update for the region, KHSC’s Vice President of Mission and Strategy Integration and Support Services, Elizabeth Bardon, disclosed that the Alpha variant (formerly known as the B.1.1.7 variant, which originated in Great Britain) is the source of the outbreak at KGH. Guan agreed that it appears the outbreak involves the Alpha variant, however, he said more genome sequencing is required in order to confirm just how involved the variant is.

Guan also disclosed that a fourth COVID-19 case involving the Delta variant was detected on Thursday, Jul. 8, 2021, however, he explained that, due to the length of time it takes to receive the results of the testing that determines which variant(s) are in play, that case involving the Delta variant has already recovered.

He also relayed some details of the region’s most recent COVID-19 death, the fourth such case in KFL&A, which occurred on Sunday, Jul. 4, 2021. That patient, Guan said, was male and in his 70s.

“So, it just really points to the fact that COVID is still affecting our community and is still creating illness, as well as death, amongst folks in our community,” he expressed, underscoring that, because of this, it is even more important for everyone to get vaccinated as soon as possible.

He went on to speak about new COVID-19 cases in relation to vaccination – whether or not the primary group of those who are contracting the virus currently have received one, two, or zero doses of vaccine.

“The vast majority… almost all of the more recent cases have been unvaccinated or partially-vaccinated folks. So again, it just reinforces the fact that vaccines work,” he said, once again requesting that residents in the region please go to get their vaccinations.

“We have also seen… it appears to be either asymptomatic or more mild disease in those who are vaccinated with at least one dose,” he said. While he did confirm that some positive cases of COVID-19 have been contracted by those who have received both doses, Guan explained that, in those cases, the outcome of those who’ve contracted the virus is far better.

Guan then spoke to the overall vaccination rates in KFL&A, noting that 78.3 per cent of those who are 12 and over have received their first dose, and 49.7 per cent of those 12 and over have received their second dose.

“So overall, we do have pretty good vaccination rates, but it’s the same story as other places in the province, like Waterloo Public Health or Grey Bruce Public Health, whereby the folks that are getting COVID are truly the unvaccinated or partially vaccinated individuals,” he said, noting that the rates for contracting the virus are far larger in the completely unvaccinated population.

Lastly, Guan spoke to the events that took place in the University District in the early morning of Sunday, Jul. 4, 2021 – a large gathering of approximately 300 post-secondary-aged people that resulted in the closure of Aberdeen Street and three Queen’s University students being charged under the Reopening Ontario Act (so far) –  and the frameworks being put in place to encourage those in the least vaccinate age group (which just happens to be the same age group) to get their shots.

“Especially for participants of that gathering in particular, I would highly recommend anyone symptomatic coming from that to please do get tested. We just don’t know if there’s anyone with COVID, and especially with a gathering of that size, There’s a potential for a COVID spread, and we won’t know until people get tested,” he said of the recent party activity.

“And for anyone that hasn’t been vaccinated [from that group], eligibility is open to anyone now, so please do get vaccinated,” Guan expressed. “Also, I highly hope that the attendees of that gathering have been vaccinated with two doses.”

Those in the younger age groups – anyone 34 or younger – have the lowest vaccination rates among the local population, Dr. Guan confirmed. However, he pointed out, those were also the last age groups to become eligible for their first shot.

With those population in mind, along with some of the other populations that are less forthcoming to be vaccinated, KFL&A Public Health is adding walk-in options for those still without their first shot – and with some availability for those waiting on their second shot, Guan explained.

“So, throughout the day for first doses, people 18 and over can drop in to the Invista or the Strathcona Paper center. For second dose drop ins, it’s at the Invista Center between 3:30 to 4:30 p.m. So, it’s really to try and target more of those folks who are completely unvaccinated. We really want to make things as easy as possible for people who are completely unvaccinated to at least get their first dose,” he said.

“But at the end of the day, the Invista Center is also open to walk-ins for second doses, as a way to kind of get all vaccines in arms, and to kind of balance out the no-show rates at the end of the day.”

KFL&A Public Health is also continuing to host vaccination pop-up clinics, which have proven to be a popular method of vaccination among many age groups. There will be pop-up clinics at both Richardson Stadium and Henderson Arena in Amherstview on Friday, Jul. 9, 2021.

And it’s the uptake in vaccines that will help KFL&A move closer to the end phases of this pandemic, Guan expressed.

“We’re not out of the woods yet,” he said. “So especially for currently, in this kind of last stage, again, in terms of immunizations as we continue to try and get our rates up, we need to continue with best practices and get both doses of the vaccine as soon as we can.”

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