By Cecilia Nasmith/Today’s Northumberland
Of the two current outbreaks in the Haliburton Kawartha Pine Ridge District Health Unit region, no new cases are being reported.
Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Natalie Bocking gave the update at this week’s media scrum, reporting on outbreaks in Lindsay and Port Hope.
The epicentre of the Port Hope outbreak is the LCBO. Dr. Bocking is not aware of any associated cases identified outside that location, but it continues to be classified as an outbreak until it’s been 14 days since the last case was identified.
The scale is much bigger in Lindsay at the Central East Correctional Centre. There have been 154 cases among residents and 10 among staff, she said, but no new cases since June 1.
The other numbers Dr. Bocking shared were also encouraging.
Of 2,111 cases in the HKPR jurisdiction, 42 are considered active (nine of which are in Northumberland County). Only five are currently hospitalized (four of them in the ICU). Of cases identified since April 1, 70.9% are variants of concern – B117 (or the UK Variant) and M501Y (the Alpha Variant).
The crude seven-day incidence rate per 100,000 of 19.6 is the lowest it has been for quite some time.
About half the cases identified in the last 14 days are in those aged 20 to 39.
And out of all cases identified in the last 14 days, 15% had no known source of transmission.
“At one point, this was 30 to 40%, which we often use as indicators to tell us about wider virus-spread activity throughout the community – another promising sign.”
The test positivity rate over the past seven days is 1.05%, compared to the 3% rate of recent weeks and also compared to the 10% rate in some regions of the province.
“Quite a significant improvement,” Dr. Bocking said.
Within the HKPR region, 90,657 doses of vaccine have been administered. And the number of residents within the region who have at least one dose is 112,750. Putting it into percentages, that means 65.7% of the population age 12 and up have at least one shot. That works out to 68.9% of the population if you are looking at those aged 18 and up and 82% of the population for those aged 60 and older.
Looking at those who have had both doses, that would be 8.3% of the population aged 12 and up – and 20.9% of the population aged 80 and up.
“This really, in some short numbers, reflects a huge amount of work that has occurred across our jurisdiction. It has really been a tremendous group effort, and I do want to acknowledge as well the on-going commitment and hard work of the health unit staff,” she said.
Vaccinations continue via four main routes.
One is the six mass-immunization clinics that began in March and April – the Northumberland clinics located in Cobourg and Campbellford – mobile vaccination clinics for certain populations that might otherwise have trouble accessing mass-immunization clinics, pharmacies and a number of primary-care partners who continue to offer vaccination clinics to their patients.
The province is allowing those aged 70 and older (and those with certain high-risk conditions) to begin booking earlier dates for their second doses, a privilege that will work it way down to younger age groups in the coming weeks.
Dr. Bocking acknowledged continued frustration with the ability to book appointments, a result of higher demand that happens when more people are eligible to make bookings – both these so-called accelerated-accessibility appointments and the lowering of the age eligibility to 12. But they are continuing with their policy of booking no more appointments than they have a confirmed dose for, to avoid any possibility of having to cancel clinics or appointments.
It is not uncommon for HKPR residents seeking appointments to be given dates at clinics as far away as Peterborough and Trenton. And even though this is not a time to encourage travel, Dr. Bocking said, “vaccination is important. We are encouraging people to receive their first and second doses at their earliest opportunity.”
Provincial news on vaccine interchangeability means that those who got AstraZeneca for their first dose now have a choice of AstraZeneca or an mRNA vaccine (Moderna or Pfizer) for their second dose. Similarly, though anyone who got an mRNA vaccine is advised to get the same one for the second dose, that person can also opt for the other one when that time comes.
The important point, she said, is to ensure an interval between them of at least 12 weeks, which has been shown to produce a better immune response than an eight-week interval – except in the case of certain high-risk medical conditions as one’s doctor may advise.
Shipments of Moderna are not consistent at this point, Dr. Bocking said.
“That could change but, as of right now, that is the information we have.”
Looking ahead through June, into the beginning of July, Prizer shipments are expected to remain at 9,300 a week to the HKPR. And following a look by the province at health unit allocations, the HKPR will be receiving a little extra.
The province is expected to Step 1 on the Roadmap to Recovery on Friday, opening certain businesses with capacity limits as well as outdoor amenities, and strongly encouraging that gatherings be kept on a small scale.
“We encourage people, as we enter Step 1, to be aware and to be mindful that Step 1 is a first step. We are all anxious to get to Step 3, but we don’t want to take a step back, depending on case activity,” she said.
“We have emphasized throughout the pandemic response maintaining that social distance, continuing to wear masks, frequent hand washing, if you are sick stay at home, get tested, and be careful as you stat to re-engage in some of those activities you enjoyed prior to the lockdown.”
Dr. Bocking said clinics especially meant for those aged 12 to 17 had taken place in all three HKPR geographic areas, and about 20% of this population now has a first dose.
“We encourage families to pursue this and look at how they can support their youth in being vaccinated, especially as we look to August when we would be getting second doses with the goal of seeing everybody back in school in the fall. Able to participate in some of the activities they enjoyed before the pandemic started.”