By Sue Tiffin
The following are brief reports from a Haliburton, Kawartha, Pine Ridge district health unit press conference held Feb. 16 with medical officer of health Dr. Natalie Bocking, and press releases distributed by the health unit.
Two of the region’s largest mass immunization clinics – located at the Lindsay Exhibition and Cobourg Community Centre – will close before the end of the month.
Clinics in Fenelon Falls and Minden will continue to run once a week until March 24. In-house clinics will also open at the health unit’s office locations in Port Hope and Lindsay and vaccinations will continue to be available at community pharmacies and through health-care providers.
“As of today, 85.8 per cent of people within the [HKPRD] have been vaccinated with their first dose and 82.4 per cent with their second dose,” Bocking said. “Our booster dose coverage for people aged 18 years and older has also topped 60 per cent.”
Walk-ins for first, second and booster doses are now available from 10 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. for anyone aged five and older at health unit COVID-19 vaccination clinics. Both mRNA COVID-19 vaccines (Pfizer and Moderna) are available. As of 8 a.m. on Feb. 18, Ontario is expanding booster dose eligibility to youth aged 12 to 17. Appointments will be booked for approximately six months (168 days) after a second dose. To be eligible for a booster dose or a fourth dose (if eligible), at least 84 days must have passed since your most recent shot.
Indication of decreasing transmission of COVID-19
Bocking said the health unit was continuing to see an improvement across indicators in terms of decreasing transmission of COVID-19 across all three regions of the health unit’s jurisdiction.
There’s been a decrease in the daily number of lab-confirmed cases among those eligible to receive them, and the number of outbreaks at the time of the briefing was eight, with two of those being long-term care residences, the others at hospitals and correctional centres. Test positivity is still the same, around 10 per cent, and was continuing to come down slightly.
Bocking said there had been a significant decline in viral signal in the sewershed in Cobourg, and the Lindsay area sewershed did show a slight increase last week but was not to the levels it previously was during the height of Omicron wave.
“While we’re not at a level that we were prior to this Omicron wave, we’re certainly in a much better position than we were several weeks ago and I think we’re continuing to see those indicators improve and trending in the right direction,” Bocking said.
In the past week, Bocking said there had been three new hospitalizations, with a total of 62 hospital admissions related to COVID-19 recorded since Jan. 1. ICU admissions have remained the same, and no new deaths were reported last week, with 23 being recorded since Jan. 1. (One death was later reported on Feb. 17, the first since five deaths were reported on Feb. 8).
Booster dose numbers
Regarding booster doses, Bocking said that among those aged 70 and older, 85.1 per cent of the population has received a booster dose, and among those aged 50 and older, 73 per cent have received their booster dose. Of those aged 18 and older, 60.2 per cent had received a booster.
For children aged five to 11, 47.6 per cent have received their first dose of COVID-19 vaccine.
Vaccination clinics – about 25 so far – planned at schools for children who have parental consent have started. Clinics planned at Stuart Baker Elementary School and Cardiff Elementary School last week were cancelled due to inclement weather. Bocking said some schools have as few as six children making use of the in-school clinics, while some schools have 16 children interested.
Bocking said the government’s plan for capacity limits to be lifted on Feb. 17, and then on March 1, was a “much welcomed announcement” for many key businesses and employers across the region as well as families, community members and community organizations, “everyone looking forward to a time when we’re less concerned about COVID.”
“With that cautious optimism and knowing that some of the stricter measures or other measures are being eased, I would encourage people to be aware that COVID-19 is still present in the community,” Bocking said. “We’re certainly in a much better place than we were at the peak of Omicron, but we’re not quite back at the level prior to Omicron at all.”
Bocking said it was likely to see transmission of COVID-19, and that could increase with lifting of capacity limits, the key to that being that the health care system is able to accommodate it, she said. She encouraged people to be vaccinated, stay home if sick, and noted an “important continued role for mask use at this point in time in helping to prevent transmission of COVID-19,” if in a space in which people can’t distance from others.
“Please don’t, in your enthusiasm, throw out all of the measures that we know have helped to protect us and our community members and our loved ones for the last two years, continue the ones we know work well as we start to ease some of the others,” she said.