Kingston, Ont. reaches highest COVID-19 rate in Canada due to Omicron spread

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Kingston reaches highest COVID-19 rate in Canada due to Omicron spread
With 198 new cases Thursday, active cases now at 1,272 and cases per 100,000 at 474.1, KFL&A Public Health is reporting the highest case numbers in the country – Dec 16, 2021

The Kingston region is first in the country, but this statistic isn’t one to boast of.

With a COVID-19 case rate of 474 per 100,000, KFL&A Public Health is reporting the highest case rate in the country, which isn’t far away from this type of spread.

In a media call Thursday, Dr. Piotr Oglaza said the Kingston region has “the highest ever case rate reported by a public health unit over the course of the pandemic.

He said Kingston may be an example of things to come elsewhere in the province or in Canada, especially in regard to how quickly Omicron can spread once it is introduced into the population.

“(It’s) something that sadly we are going to see out of parts of the province (and) in other jurisdictions,” Dr. Oglaza said.

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Still, despite the alarming numbers, the region’s medical officer of health said he wouldn’t lobby the province to enact stricter measures such as a lockdown, because he doesn’t believe it will do much to slow the spread of the Omicron-driven surge in cases.

The health unit has already imposed several new regulations over the last few weeks, including an order on Wednesday lowering capacity limits in public spaces to 50 per cent.

The move has caused some cancellations, notably the Friday night Kingston Frontenacs home game.

Of the 198 new infections, more than half, 108, were in the 18-29 age group. Oglaza noted that the majority of the Omicron spread has been within that age bracket since its appearance in Kingston.

Meanwhile, hospitalizations remain steady at 25, with 14 in the intensive care unit and 11 on ventilators. Oglaza said so far, Omicron has not caused any hospitalization, and all who are being treated have the Delta variant.

He said this still isn’t exactly proof that Omicron is less virulent since the majority of the new cases have been spreading within a young, healthy and highly vaccinated population.

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“Which also is likely providing a mitigating impact on the risk of hospitalization,” Oglaza said. “So we have the combination of a younger population immunized, and that’s why we are not likely not seeing cases yet.”

As for why the variant has spread so rapidly in the area, Oglaza said it was due to the way it arrived in the community, spreading through young populations and social gatherings.

Oglaza has yet to make it clear how the variant arrived in the region, but chief medical officers of health from two other provinces pointed to rugby championships at Queen’s University in November.

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Since Nov. 29, Queen’s has recorded 498 cases linked to the school. Oglaza previously noted that the first case of Omicron detected in Kingston became symptomatic Nov. 28.

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With such a dramatic rise in cases locally, Oglaza stopped short of discouraging social gatherings over the holidays but advised people to be cautious about who they invite.

“We are social beings, we want to be together, and then when we are together, there are steps we can take to protect one another,” Oglaza said.

By Dec. 20, a Section 22 order limiting private gatherings to five people or fewer will expire, leaving a 10-person limit for holiday parties.

The health unit also said it’s changing the way it does contact management, focusing on high-risk settings.

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