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Kingston’s MOH not seeing wide community spread, COVID-19 cases limited to ‘clusters’

Dr. Piotr Oglaza said COVID-19 cases are being tracked back to 'private social settings,' and 'impacting individuals who are not immunized.'. Hastings Prince Edward Public Health

Despite COVID-19 case counts continuing to rise in the KFL&A region, Kingston’s medical officer of health isn’t itching to implement additional restrictions just yet.

As of Wednesday, Dr. Piotr Oglaza said the region is reporting case rates much like those seen in the third wave of the pandemic. This includes the region’s case rate per 100,000, now at 48.8, and the area’s percentage positivity rate, standing at 2.5 per cent. Those numbers, he said, are some of the highest ever seen in the region.

But, the region’s saving grace? Vaccinations, Oglaza said.

Read more: Experts say no need to panic as COVID numbers rise in Ontario

“Because of the efforts of everyone in this community of 80 or almost 90 per cent of individuals who chose to get immunized, this fourth wave is more of a tidal wave than a tsunami,” he said.

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With further public health restrictions being implemented in Sudbury, which is seeing an even larger spike in cases, Oglaza says the KFL&A region is simply not at that stage.

Rather than seeing community spread, Oglaza said contact tracers are tracking clusters of cases, especially among unvaccinated populations.

In fact, the case rate among the local unvaccinated population is six times greater than among the vaccinated, he said.

“We see cases or clusters of cases occurring, transmission occurring in more private social settings, impacting individuals who are not immunized, impacting individuals congregating indoors in settings where no or little public health measures are followed,” he said.

He added that if contact tracers continue to see this pattern of groupings of cases that are “conducive to targeted interventions,” he sees no need for added community-wide restrictions like those being implemented in Sudbury.

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Currently, the health unit is tracking 126 active cases with 500 close contacts. Oglaza said contact tracers have been able to determine a transmission link for three-quarters of the region’s active cases.

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But, Oglaza did ask the community to be more vigilant now that case counts are as high as they were in the third wave. He said testing rates are currently lower than they were in spring 2021, and asked those who are symptomatic to isolate and be tested.

He also said basic things like hand washing, wearing masks, and staying home if you’re ill, are imperative to address this recent surge in cases.

As for where these case clusters are forming, Oglaza said the groups are diverse.

It does impact different groups of population,” he said.

One group Oglaza said health officials and municipal partners are particularly focusing on are vulnerable populations who have had barriers to vaccines and to regular testing.

There is currently a COVID-19 outbreak linked Kingston’s Integrated Care hub, with 20 cases in total associated. Oglaza indicated that this outbreak is not the only grouping of cases among unhoused and vulnerable populations health officials are tracking, and that added efforts like mobile testing and vaccines are being implemented to address the cases rising among these communities.

Read more: Cases in Kingston region jump to levels not seen since May, 2021

He also noted that cases continue to be found among young children, who still do not have access to the vaccine. He was hopeful that once vaccines open up to those five to 11 years old, the spread among that age bracket can be addressed quickly.

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Overall, Oglaza issued a rallying call to the community he’s newly leading through this fourth wave, to double down on COVID best practices, but to be comforted by the local vaccine uptake.

“We’ve been there before we’ve experienced surges as the community during the first, second and third waves. We are in a much better situation now. And that’s thanks to a high vaccination rate,” he said.

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