Dr. Kieran Moore, medical officer of health for KFL&A Public Health, announced Tuesday there are three cases of the novel coronavirus in the Kingston region. These are the first cases to be announced in Kingston since the outbreak of the disease.
These three people — two women, 44 and 62, and a 48-year-old man — travelled respectively to Barbados, the United Kingdom and Spain in the last two weeks.
A news release from Lennox and Addington County General Hospital said the patient who tested positive returning from Barbados was a health care professional who works at their hospital. They were tested at the hospital March 16, and sent home for self-isolation.
Moore said some of the three had mild symptoms while flying. KFL&A Public Health has been in contact with provincial and federal public health officials to notify them of the potential spread of the virus on their flights back home.
He said two of the three tested positive at the region’s dedicated assessment centre at Hotel Dieu Hospital, while the other was assessed at another local hospital.
He also said public health is working with the city to perhaps move the assessment centre, or open a new one at the city’s Memorial Centre, since the Hotel Dieu location does not offer the amount of space necessary to assess those who may need COVID-19 testing.
Mayor Bryan Paterson confirmed the move in a tweet Tuesday, saying an “expanded assessment” centre at the Memorial Centre could be opened by the weekend.
All of three who tested positive are stable and did not have to be hospitalized, Moore said. They are currently self-isolating and showing signs of the disease, such as fever, cough and/or some difficulty breathing, with Moore saying he had spoken to all of them Tuesday morning.
None of these people have any links to any of Kingston’s post-secondary institutions, Moore said.
“Queen’s and St. Lawrence College and the Royal Military College, they have put in appropriate precautions and increased their testing capability at all of those sites, and have been a testing partner with us. It’s worked out very well,” Moore said. He added that now that schools are closing their campuses off to most students and non-essential staff, this should help slow the spread of the virus significantly.
Local health officials are now working to identify and notify the “inner close contact group” who have interacted with those who tested positive in Kingston over the last day. Moore added he knows two patients did not have any significant contact with the community since returning from their travels. For those who did have contact with those who tested positive, Moore said public health is working to get in touch with them.
“We will follow up with any of their contacts, make sure those contacts stay at home for 14 days and we’ll be monitoring their symptoms during that timeframe if they develop symptoms,” Moore said.
Those who do show symptoms will be tested for the virus.
After several hundred tests for the disease over the last few weeks, Moore said having only three people test positive should be comforting.
He said positive tests were anticipated considering the current spread of the disease, but the risk in the Kingston region is still low.
Nevertheless, Moore said he believes people should prepare to be dealing with this disease for the “long haul.”
“The normal outbreak that we have of influenza lasts six to eight weeks. This is going to last much longer as a community, I think we have to be prepared.”
He said statements that the virus will not propagate during the summer months are most likely untrue.
“This is our life now, for quite a long time,” Moore told reporters.
“This virus, in my opinion, is not leaving us. It’s going to become a seasonal virus and we’re going to have to in the interim, any time we see a spike in cases, we’re going to have to, as a community, follow the instructions that we provide about quarantining. We’re going to have to really protect our elderly,” Moore added.
In order to reduce stress on the health system, KFL&A Public Health is asking anyone with mild symptoms to self-quarantine.
“We’re asking those if you have mild symptoms to stay at home, wait till your symptoms have completely resolved, then wait one more day and then it’s safer to go outside and to and to do the limited social interaction that we can,” Moore advised.
The province announced several new cases Tuesday morning, none of which were in the Kingston region, and a state of emergency was issued.
This means all gatherings of 50 or more people should be cancelled, and facilities providing recreational programs, all libraries, private schools , licensed child care centres, bars and restaurants (takeout and delivery excluded) and theatres, cinemas and concert venues must close.
Moore said, for the time being, social distancing measures taken by the province are helpful, but most importantly, he wants people who are sick to remember to stay away from others.
“The only time we can spread it is if we’re socially out there with a fever and a cough and/or increased difficulty breathing. If you stay at home when you’re sick, if you’re washing your hands frequently, if you’re covering your cough, we can minimize the spread through those basic ongoing actions.”