/Changes to testing, outbreak guidelines impact daily reports
Dr. Natalie Bocking, medical officer of health for Haliburton, Kawartha, Pine Ridge District health unit speaks to media at a Jan. 19 vitual media briefing./Screenshot from HKPRDHU media briefing

Changes to testing, outbreak guidelines impact daily reports

By Sue Tiffin

The following are brief reports from a Haliburton, Kawartha, Pine Ridge district health unit press conference with medical officer of health Dr. Natalie Bocking, held virtually on Jan. 12.

There have been 4,858 cases of COVID-19 confirmed in the region, with 1,124 lab-confirmed active cases of COVID-19 at the time of the media briefing. Bocking reminded the public that changes to provincial guidance for testing impacts the day-to-day numbers in that not everyone with symptoms of COVID-19 will be tested.

“We know that the number of active cases on our dashboard is not reflective of the actual number of COVID-19 cases in the community,” Bocking said. Currently only those who are symptomatic and work or live in high-risk settings, including long-term care facilities, retirement homes, shelters and correctional institutions; hospitalized patients and some patients in emergency departments; underhoused or homeless; Indigenous people and those travelling into Indigenous communities for work and elementary and secondary students and education staff who have received a PCR self-collection kit through their school can obtain a PCR test. 

“While I can share a number on our dashboard of the lab-confirmed cases, it doesn’t include the whole burden of COVID-19 the community is currently experiencing,” Bocking said. “That being said I think it’s still a proxy measure, or indicative of COVID-19 activity in the community. Yes, it’s a smaller portion of the population that is accessing these tests, but if those numbers are still high, it’s still signifying that there’s a lot of COVID-19 activity in the community.”

Bocking said there are other measures that can be looked at to determine when there is decreased activity overall, including test positivity – the proportion of tests that are positive from those being tested. On Jan. 4, the test positivity rate in the region was at around 22 per cent. Another measure, said Bocking, is the number of outbreaks in a community – as of Jan. 12, there were 30 outbreaks that had been declared, 15 of those at long-term care homes, none in Haliburton County. Outbreaks in higher risk settings – long-term care homes, retirement homes, correctional institutions – are being reported, but not outbreaks in other settings such as with hockey teams, said Bocking.

By the numbers

Of those case numbers being reported, 30 per cent of confirmed cases have been identified in young adults between the ages of 30 and 39.

In the 14 days prior to last week’s media briefing, 14 individuals have been admitted to hospitals – eight of those individuals are 70 or above, with the higher risk of needing hospital admission still among older age groups. Two hospital admissions were among the age group of 10 to 19. Also in the last 14 days, three people have been admitted to the ICU, two were over the age of 70, one was in the 60- to 69-year-old age group.

There had been five deaths over the last 14 days, all aged 70 and over.

Vaccination status 

Among those admitted to hospital, Bocking said there have not been any hospital admissions among individuals vaccinated with three doses of COVID-19 vaccine. There have been several hospitalizations of those who have received two doses, which she said isn’t a surprise, noting two doses aren’t as effective against the Omicron variant as they were against the Delta variant. 

Bocking said there continued to be good progress in people aged 70 and older accessing boosters. To date, 70.4 per cent of people aged 70 and over have received their booster. 

Among the population 18 and older, 43 per cent have received their booster.

Bocking said while the vaccination of young or school-aged children had good uptake at first, “I wouldn’t say that it stalled but the rate of increase has certainly levelled off.”