Public Health says widespread variant transmission catalyzed extended Class Order

Chief Medical Officer of Health projects case numbers to rise over next two weeks in “early stages” of orange zone

Moore said he’s been pleased with Queen’s actions to limit transmission.
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Following the announcement of a six-week extension of the Class Order that limits indoor and outdoor gatherings to five people, Kingston’s Public Health Unit said the decision was based on the transmission of variants of concern in the community.

Dr. Kieran Moore, medical officer for Kingston, Frontenac, and Lennox and Addington (KFL&A) Public Health, said on Tuesday that he’ll be reviewing the Class Order weekly in the event that case numbers drop below levels of concern. However, he added that severely limiting the spread of variants often takes two incubation periods, or 28 days.

“If we can get through these next several weeks, we’ll certainly revisit the implementation of the Section 22 order. I want us to be prudent and to be proactive and for the public health measures to be proportionate to the risk,” Moore said. 

“I do believe, at this time […] we should have these measures in place." 

KFL&A reported 19 new cases and resolved three on Thursday afternoon, bringing the total to 69 cases—55 of which are Queen’s students. As of Thursday evening, Queen’s is reporting 36 new cases for the week of Mar.15 to 21, with four located in residence and 32 off-campus.

READ MORE: COVID-19 & Queen's: One year later

To date, 27 cases involving variants of concern have been reported. Only one case has been identified as the B.1.1.7 strain, with the remaining 26 unidentified thus far due to the length of time it takes to get the sequencing returned from a lab.

With case numbers escalating, Moore believes Kingston will shift into the yellow zone by the end of Friday. While the extension of the Class Order only affected the limits on group gatherings, a return to the yellow zone would impose various restrictions on local businesses.

Moore added that the region is likely in the “early stages of [the orange zone]” given the rapid rise in case numbers.

The most recent wave of cases to hit the KFL&A region came in December, which peaked at 112 cases—a direction the region is “rapidly” heading in, according to Moore.

“We’re anticipating these types of numbers every day going forward,” Moore said, referencing the 19 new reported cases on Thursday.

“No question we’ll see more cases […] it’ll be a tough couple of weeks.”

Discussing Queen’s response, Moore said he’s been pleased with the University’s actions to limit transmission, which has included closing the ARC indefinitely. He confirmed that a number of individuals who tested positive had previously used the ARC.

“We do know some of our positive clients had been in that centre. We haven’t seen significant transmission in that setting yet but I think that’s prudent and proactive.” 

READ MORE: As cases spike, Public Health extends class order to April 30

Following a 140-person house party on March 12, Kingston Police have been investigating the impact of the gathering but it “doesn’t appear to be a super spreader event yet,” Moore said. However, he noted the majority of community spread is taking place in small social circles.

With the new variant spreading widely throughout the region, Moore said he understands the mental, physical, and emotional toll harsh restrictions can have, but emphasized that the protocols in place will curb the spread of variants.

“When you have that new virus in play, we know it’s more infectious […] that’s new to us and it’s at a very critical time when we’re trying to roll out immunization, trying to best protect the community—I’m really going to need the community’s buy-in over the next four weeks to give us that critical time to limit the spread of the virus.”

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