With active COVID-19 cases dipping below 20 for the first time in months, and 60 per cent of the local population having received their first vaccine shot, Kingston’s medical officer of health Dr. Kieran Moore said Friday the region was making “remarkable progress” in battling the pandemic.
He said just weeks ago, active cases were inching closer to 150, and as of Friday, they stand at 18.
“I do believe our community is very unique in Ontario and has been very unique in our ability to limit the spread of the virus and its impact on the hospital sector,” Moore said.
He added that he believes with the region’s very low rates of COVID-19, the province will opt to allow KFL&A to open its schools in the coming weeks, while perhaps keeping schools closed elsewhere.
“I would hope that us having one of the lowest rates of illness would allow our schools to open safely and that we shouldn’t be held dependent upon what the risk is in Peel or Toronto or York at present,” he said.
But, he says the KFL&A region will continue to follow the province’s reopening framework for all other sectors.
When it comes to vaccinations, Moore said 16,000 doses have been administered locally in just the last seven days. Moore says Pfizer supply is coming in at a regular rate and the region is also expected to receive more Moderna than originally anticipated.
“We absolutely expect this volume of patients to be able to be immunized (weekly) to continue throughout June,” he said.
More than 114,000 first and second doses have been administered locally over the last several months.
Over the last week, Kingston-area pharmacies have been working to get 4,000 second doses of AstraZeneca into arms. Moore said it is unclear when the next shipment will come, but that the province has guaranteed all those eligible would get a second dose of AstraZeneca.
Friday, the province announced that those aged 80 and up can start booking their second doses of Pfizer or Modern starting May 31. Although Canada had extended the timeframe between first and second doses to 12 weeks, Moore anticipates that timeframe to shrink significantly for some going forward.
“We may be shortening that full four-month interval for some individuals to be much shorter. It can be as short as 28 days now for 80 and over individuals in our community,” he said.
As of Friday, 100 per cent of those 80 and up have received their first dose in the community, and 17 per cent have their second dose.
Moore noted that the province also informed KFL&A that they will be dropping age bands for second doses routinely, and those 70 and up can expect to start booking their second doses starting June 14.
Moore anticipates by the fall to have 90 per cent of the population with their first dose, and 30 per cent with their second.
“That is a strategy that could possibly have us having the highest immunization rates in the world for first and second doses combined,” he said.
Moore said Friday that KFL&A Public Health has been laser-focused on dealing with the pandemic, but has started to plan its “post-pandemic strategy.”
He said the bulk of second doses will most likely be administered by primary care physicians and pharmacies, but the health unit will continue to do case and contact management, as well as working with local schools and high-risk settings to keep them protected from the virus.
This will allow the health unit to pick up on matters put on hold over the course of the pandemic, but his primary focus will continue to be on pandemic recovery for the local community.
“We want to start the recovery phase as well heading into the fall and to reimagine our community being the welcoming community that it is to welcome tourism, which is a big part of our economy, and get people back to work and start to recover from the social, mental, physical and economic impact of this virus that it’s had over the last year and a half,” he said.