After Dr. Piotr Oglaza, Medical Officer of Health (MOH) for Kingston, Frontenac, Lennox and Addington (KFL&A) Public Health, released the news that there had been community spread of COVID-19 in the region, he met virtually with members of the press for his regular COVID-19 update on Tuesday, Nov. 16, 2021. His main message: it is important to remain committed to the basics (handwashing, masking, social distancing), and especially getting tested for the virus if you feel unwell.
With case numbers currently at an all-time high for the region, Oglaza said, “Be mindful that there’s no such thing as ‘just a cold’ — it may not be just a cold. In order to prevent that further spread of COVID-19 in the KFL&A region, if you have any symptoms, do not delay seeking testing and stay isolated from others.”
“We’re looking at data starting from October 21, and these clusters of cases in households where we see the spread, we often don’t see the initial source of the exposure for that one household. So, this is one of the reasons why I thought it’s important to look at this and declare that community spread to alert. The community that action is needed to curtail that further spread and help us get through that fourth wave.”
Complacency, Oglaza said, is not an option.
“Fortunately, a large proportion of our population, 90.2 per cent of [those] 12 and over, have received the first dose of COVID-19 vaccine. And 86.8 per cent of the population has received two doses of the vaccine and is fully protected. We also had a number of third-dose administered in long-term care facilities for the residents. So, really the key message to the public at this point is to continue their efforts, continue to maintain these Public Health measures, [and] those who haven’t got immunizations, please do get vaccinated as soon as possible.”
The MOH explained what Public Health is doing in tandem with the confirmation of community spread in the KFL&A region.
“To address this surge in cases, we have communicated with businesses and workplaces and we are urging them to act immediately by focusing efforts on Public Health measures that are intended to help slow down the region’s rising numbers. And by following these current measures, businesses and workplaces can help our community avoid the need to reintroduce any additional restrictions, such as capacity limits,” he pointed out.
“And as a reminder, some of these measures include things like active screening that is required for patrons of meeting or event spaces, restaurants, personal care services, businesses that provide teaching and instruction, sports and recreational facilities, photography studios, etc. So, that’s all taken straight out of the Reopening of Ontario Act, for the current stage of reopening that we have.”
“In terms of the case updates,” he said, emphasizing “ this is really where the nuts and bolts are and where we are in terms of our local epidemiology.”
We are currently at 61 cases per 100,000 population, he said and, “This is our historic maximum. We’ve last seen it before on April 10. And we actually hit a new maximum over the weekend where, based on the calculations and that seven-day case rate per 100,000 population, we were at 69.9 over the course of the weekend. So, that’s really something telling.”
He also pointed out that, similarly, “Our percent positivity of testing, that also continues to hit the new maximum, and currently, we’re at 2.73 per cent.”
As for children aged four to 12, their percent positivity has dropped to 1.9 per cent, he said, “which is good news because it’s lower than the whole population percent.”
“However,” he noted, “the testing rate in this age group is approximately three times higher than the testing rate of the general population. So, that’s something really important and it is important to note that the parents of children are doing the responsible thing and testing their children at that rate, and that does help us prevent the spread in this population.”
Currently, the region has 184 active cases and 686 active contacts, Dr. Oglaza said, “So, this number of active cases has again far exceeded our historic high of active cases, which was 150.”
He added that it is important to point out that the rate of cases among the vaccinated versus unvaccinated population differs significantly, “it is five and a half times higher in the unvaccinated population than the vaccinated population. So, it does speak to the effectiveness of the vaccines. [The vaccines] are not 100 per cent effective, but they do provide significant protection.”
Those who are fully vaccinated should not become apathetic, though, Oglaza expressed, “because we still do see spread from vaccinated individuals. The risk is significantly lower, but it’s not zero — it’s not completely eliminated.”
“We can do this,” he assured, “We’ve been through very tough times in this community and this is the fourth wave, this is this one more time that we’re asking everyone to do their part. And we can do this, we can beat this. We have vaccination now, a lot of people are immunized. And, if we add to that immunization additional measures and tools in terms of staying home when sick [and] getting tested, that’s going to really significantly improve the situation.”