Kingston MOH says COVID-19 vaccines keeping region from locking down

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Medical experts and families in Ontario are calling on the Ford government to make rapid antigen tests available to every household in the province with the number of COVID-19 cases rising. – Dec 7, 2021

As COVID-19 cases continue to rise in the region, KFL&A Public Health’s medical officer of health joined Tuesday night’s city council meeting to give an update to the region.

At this point, he says lockdown measures are not on the horizon for the area.

“Our two main goals of pandemic response in the KFL&A region is to keep schools and workplaces open and maintain health-care capacity,” Dr. Piotr Oglaza told council.

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But, with the Kingston region reaching record-high COVID-19 rates, and the news of Kingston hospitals having to offload some patients due to high COVID-19 hospitalizations, many members of the community are wondering if further restrictions to curb the spread of the virus will follow.

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Oglaza has long maintained that lockdown measures that worked before just won’t pass muster in the fourth wave. He says the major difference this time around is the region’s high vaccination rate. As of Tuesday, more than 82 per cent of the five and up population have two doses.

“Some of these broad measures that were saving us in the previous waves are not applicable to a situation where vast majority of the population are immunized and are also not going to address the patterns of spread that we see,” he said.

Oglaza maintains that the driving factor for the spread of the virus is household gatherings, which now account for more than half of local transmission of COVID-19.

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Community reacts as COVID-19 cases rise in the Kingston region

And while there are vaccinated individuals contracting the virus, Oglaza says, for the most part, those testing positive for COVID-19 are unvaccinated.

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What’s keeping the region from lockdown measures is science, Oglaza said, which has proven that vaccines work in protecting people from serious illness. He said those who are fully vaccinated are at far less risk of getting sick and transmitting the virus to others.

We have not seen a significant burden of infection and transmission coming from places where proof of vaccination is in effect,” he said.

But, despite recent moves from the health unit to limit private gatherings to 10 people and add extra screening at schools, the region is seeing unprecedented numbers.

KFL&A is currently third in the province in active cases per 100,000, behind only the Algoma and Sudbury health unit regions.

Councillors Ryan Boehme and Wayne Hill pressed the doctor on restrictions, asking if more should be done, but Oglaza maintained that widespread community lockdowns will do more harm than good.

“Are there other restrictions coming or are we basically talking about cancelling Christmas this year,” Boehme asked.

Oglaza said implementing a total lockdown like seen before, is not an option.

“Probably one of the most successful ways of of of stopping the chain of transmission is something that I don’t believe that anyone in this community is is is willing to accept. And we’ve seen that before. We’ve seen a stay at home order,” he said.

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He said these orders adversely impact the most vulnerable populations in the region, and that many people with good jobs able to do remote work will still be able to work under stay-at-home orders.

“Others who rely on that in-person work cannot be working from home and they’re not going to be able to to really do well under these circumstances. They are disproportionately bearing the consequences of some of these very harsh measures,” he said.

He said any further restrictions would be tailored to target symptomatic people attending gatherings.

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“In the vast majority of all of these circumstances, there is a symptomatic person present in that social setting, that gathering, whether it’s an outbreak setting, workplace, school or household, the spread comes from an infected individual being present,” he said.

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He said more information on masking and screening protocols will come in the next couple of days. But for now, the medical officer of health told those who are vaccinated to have faith in the protection associated with the vaccine, and urged those who are not to get their shots.

“Vaccines do work. They do show effectiveness and they do change the situation in this fourth wave compared to everything we’ve experienced so far,” he said.

“It is because of the vaccines that we can keep the workplaces and schools open.

Oglaza will be holding a press conference at 1:30 p.m. Wednesday to answer further questions.

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