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Kingston medical officer of health asks for diligence as COVID-19 variants spread

Medical officer of Health for Kingston, Frontenac, Lennox and Addington health unit, Dr. Kieran Moore speaks with the media at the Strathcona Paper Centre in Napanee, Ontario, on Monday March 15, 2021. The centre will be used as a immunization clinic for the Napanee area. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Lars Hagberg

With 21 new cases announced Tuesday, Dr. Kieran Moore is bracing for a tough couple of weeks battling COVID-19 in the Kingston region.

He says locally, and across the province, variants of concern are to blame for recent surges in case counts and hospitalizations.

The pandemic has changed. April could be a very deadly month,” Moore said.

Read more: Will the more deadly COVID-19 variants ruin our summer? Here’s what experts are saying

He says the virus’ new variants are both one-and-a-half times more infectious and more deadly than the original strain of the virus.

Over the last several weeks, variants have taken over in the Kingston region, with 60 per cent of the area’s 76 active cases testing positive for mutations.

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Moore says of the total number of variants detected in the region, 115, about half are B.1.1.7. strains. The other half, he believes, are a mixture of the P.1 or B.1.351 strains. He called the presence of these variants “disconcerting.”

We all have to work together to try to reduce the risk of transmission of these variants. It’s very important, as for some of them, the vaccines aren’t as effective,” Moore said.

But, Moore says, so far, KFL&A is faring better than other regions in the province, and hopes it will continue to do so.

“We have things relatively under control and that’s from a great community adhering to best practices,” he says.

In fact, as other regions struggle with hospitalizations, Moore says Kingston-area hospitals have been taking patients in. On Sunday,10 patients came from elsewhere to Kingston intensive care units, all on ventilators. Moore expects to see more soon.

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Unlike previously during the pandemic, hospitals are seeing many more young people filling their intensive care units. He says of the 500 people across Ontario in hospital with COVID-19, over 300 of them are on ventilators.

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Despite no locals being hospitalized in the Kingston region so far, Moore says that can change at any time. He believes the biggest threat to the community’s success is travel.

“As soon as you leave, you go to Hastings’ Prince Edward. Their rates now are three times higher than ours. Leeds, Grenville are two to three times higher than ours. In Ottawa, five to 10,” he said.

Both nearby health units have recently been struggling with surges of COVID-19 rates. Numbers in Leeds, Grenville and Lanark have only recently started to subside, and actually have gone down below Kingston’s active case count, to 74.

But, Hastings Prince Edward’s cases have shot up to 148 as of Tuesday, with more than 100 cases seen in the last week.

Read more: Ottawa adds 176 COVID-19 cases as hospitalizations climb

“The Ontario rate’s gone up to one hundred and thirty one per hundred thousand per week. Ours is remaining one fourth or fifth of that rate. So please stay local, don’t travel, stay within KFLA,” he urged.

Moore says on the local front, health officials are specifically worried about larger gatherings in places of worship, something he says the health unit will address by contacting every place of worship and reminding them they must abide by the provincially-mandated 15 per cent capacity limit.

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He said the health unit received information that some establishments were allowing more than . 

We are really asking anyone going to places of worship, please consider not going in person, but attending virtually,” Moore said.

All in all, Moore wants to hammer home that with the new variants, the pandemic is no longer the same enemy we’ve been fighting for the last year.

April will be potentially one of the deadliest months on record if we don’t adhere to best practices, limit our social contacts, limit our travel, stay within our regions,” he said in a press conference with media Tuesday.

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