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‘The risk has never been higher’: Kingston’s health unit warns of rising COVID-19 variant cases

Click to play video: 'Kingston region expected to move into yellow COVID-19 zone due to rising case counts' Kingston region expected to move into yellow COVID-19 zone due to rising case counts
KFL&A medical officer of health's concerns grow over the spread of a specific COVID-19 variant. – Mar 21, 2021

Dr. Kieran Moore, medical officer of health for the Kingston region, is urging people to keep their social circles small as a COVID-19 variant spreads through the community. This comes the same day as the KFL&A region enters the yellow zone of the province’s COVID-19 response framework

The threat level in our communities never been so high, and we all need to really tighten down our social circles very quickly. We’re seeing it spread when people have small parties, small social events, sleepovers with their children, spreading back to parents,” Moore said in an interview Sunday.

Moore said as of Sunday, the Kingston region had 84 active cases of the virus in the community, 70 per cent of which were variants of concern.

“The provincial average is around 50 per cent,” he said.

The health unit has not specified which variant is spreading in the Kingston community, but Moore says it’s most likely the B.1.1.7 variant, first identified in the U.K.

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Read more: Kingston-area public health warns of COVID-19 exposure at 2 downtown restaurants

This week, four different possible COVID-19 exposure notices were sent out by the health unit — one each at Miss Bao Restaurant and Lonestar Bar and Grill, and another two this past weekend, at the downtown library and at a downtown jeweller.

Notices like these are sent out when contact tracers do not feel confident they can reach all those potentially exposed.

Unlike most other times in the pandemic where contact tracers have been able to tamp down outbreaks in the region, Moore says the health unit does not have the current variant outbreak under control.

The risk has never been higher, mainly because we’re seeing more social contact. We’re seeing people let their guard down and we now have a new enemy — the variant of concern,” he said.

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Despite going into the yellow zone Monday, Moore says the region is seeing case rates more akin to the orange-restrict levels, save hospitalizations, which remain at zero as of Sunday.

To date and I’m knocking on wood, we have no one in the hospital and no one in the intensive care unit setting. But that’s a key indicator as well,” he said.

Moore says cases are not just rising in the Kingston region, but in Ontario as well, and along with rising cases comes more hospitalizations.

With the vaccine rollout still in its infancy, Moore hopes that as many locals who are eligible, so those 75 and over at immunization clinics and those 60 and over at pharmacies, do so immediately. For the rest of the community, he asks that they adhere to the Kingston-specific public health order that limits gatherings to five people inside and outside.

Read more: Public health order that limits gatherings extended in Kingston until end of April

“(It’s) very important to decrease the number of contacts you have, to try to isolate yourself as best you can and not to have continued spread of this virus in our community. The next two weeks are really crucial,” he said.

The health unit has yet to update its COVID-19 numbers, but Global News is aware of at least 20 new cases found in the region over the weekend.

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