The following are brief reports from a Haliburton, Kawartha, Pine Ridge district health unit board of health meeting held virtually on May 19.
By Sue Tiffin
Dr. Natalie Bocking, medical officer of health, gave a COVID-19 update to the board, noting that she believes the region is now “on the downslope of the wave” according to a number of indicators.
The number of new daily cases identified has halved in the last two weeks, and the number of active outbreaks is still significant but has decreased. Test positivity in the region is down from its highest of 23 per cent to 10.1 per cent, compared to 18 or 19 per cent in other public health regions.
“We’re seeing fewer hospital admissions, although we are still seeing a steady stream of hospital admissions,” said Bocking.
Wastewater surveillance last week showed Cobourg’s viral signal trend increasing while Lindsay’s is decreasing.
During the Omicron wave, since Jan. 1 this year, there have been 135 hospital admissions, 27 ICU admissions, 44 deaths and 74 outbreaks related to COVID-19, a higher burden then at other times of the pandemic.
Bocking recommended, as always, staying up to date with COVID-19 vaccination, staying home if sick and wearing a mask in indoor spaces.
“As you know, the province really moved towards an individual risk assessment approach in terms of whether or not people should wear masks or be attending crowded events, and certainly people that are at higher risk of developing severe COVID-19 may need to take more precautions rather than other individuals,” said Bocking. “At this point in time, there is still Omicron variant circulating, we are still seeing new infections, we are still seeing new hospital admissions, I would still recommend that people wear a mask in indoor crowded spaces, especially crowded, larger gatherings.” Bocking said at this time she recommends that people avoid large, crowded indoor gatherings if they’re able to and if they’re not able to distance. Bocking said those recommendations might clear in the next couple of weeks but said that while the region is on the downslope, there’s still Omicron variant circulating and the health unit is still seeing the results of that.
Bocking said there are still more than 11,000 individuals in the region that are eligible for their booster dose of COVID-19 vaccine who have not received it. She said the health unit has not seen the demand for the second booster dose “that one might have hoped,” and there are empty spots at vaccine clinics.
“We are ensuring people have access, but I have heard from some individuals that there’s a sense from people that they’re going to get Omicron, if the vaccine is not going to prevent them from getting Omicron then why should they get it, is one rationale that I’ve heard, the other rationale that I’ve heard is that maybe we’ll just wait for the fall,” said Bocking, noting she would challenge that rationale. She said she still recommends those eligible for first or second booster doses receive those doses, as they don’t prevent infection but are quite effective – upwards of 85 to 90 per cent – at preventing severe illness. Bocking said it also appears from data that vaccines are effective at preventing post-acute symptoms – or so-called Long COVID.
Regarding vaccination clinics, Bocking said there have been 25 clinics in May, with 2,100 still-open appointments, and 21 clinics planned for June. Ten GoVaxx (mobile bus) visits in May are planned with 19 GoVaxx visits in June and 51 schools have been visited, a total of 99 clinics, with 868 total doses provided to children with parental permission.
Yellow ribbon means give space
The yellow ribbon campaign, or Caution: I Might Bite campaign is an animal bite awareness and yellow ribbon communication campaign to prevent dog bites. The campaign recommends that a yellow ribbon be tied to the leash or collar of a dog that requires space from human touch.
“It gives the general public a little bit of a visual indicating that this animal needs space,” said Richard Ovcharovich, HKPRDHU manager of health protection.
“It’s not necessarily that the animal is aggressive, there’s a number of reasons why dogs should not be pet or need more space – it could be a dog after surgery, a rescue dog which is more fearful, could be a service animal where you shouldn’t be touching that animal because it needs to be able to focus on the job that it has, or it could just be a tired, old and grumpy dog that should not be petted or doesn’t want to be pet.”
Ovcharovich encourages families, especially children, to realize what the yellow ribbon or marker means and give the animal space. It’s best not to approach or try petting the animal without the owner’s full attention and direction, he adds.
In each of the past three years, the health unit has investigated more than 600 animal bite/scratch incidents in Haliburton County, Northumberland County, and the City of Kawartha Lakes.