Public Health leaders call for patience, perseverance during second lockdown

COVID-19. (Wikipedia.org)

JASON PARKS

STAFF WRITER

With COVID-19 vaccination doses to be administered in the coming days in the Quinte area, Hastings Prince Edward Public Health is asking local residents to be mindful of provincial orders levied by the Government of Ontario.

Yesterday’s sombre news cases of COVID-19 are rapidly increasing across the province and the correlated  increased pressure on the health care system is cause for concern for HPEPH.

In response, the province has declared a second State of Emergency and issued a Stay at Home Order, advising all Ontarians to stay home except for essential purposes such as getting groceries or attending medical appointments. In addition to direction to stay home, updated public health and workplace safety measures have been put in place across the province to help limit the spread of COVID-19.

Effective Thursday, January 14, 2021 at 12:01 a.m., the government is issuing a stay-at-home order and enhancing public health restrictions. These include:

  • Requirement to remain at home with exceptions for essential purposes
  • Outdoor organized/social gatherings are further restricted to a limit of five people with limited exceptions (such as if all individuals reside in the same household, funerals/weddings in compliance with limits and restrictions).
  • Requirement to wear a mask or face covering in the indoor areas of businesses or organizations that are open.
  • Recommendation to wear a mask outdoors when physical distancing is not possible
  • All non-essential retail stores, including hardware stores, alcohol retailers, and those offering curbside pickup or delivery, must open no earlier than 7 a.m. and close no later than 8 p.m.
  • Non-essential construction is further restricted, including below-grade construction, exempting survey.
  • Employees should work from home, whenever possible.
  • If you have questions about what will be open or impacts to your business or employment, call the Stop the Spread Business Information Line at 1-888-444-3659.
  • All enforcement and provincial offences officers will have the authority to issue tickets, close premises, or disperse individuals who are not complying with these orders.
  • When in-person learning resumes for school aged children, additional health and safety measures will include:
    • Masking for Grade 1-3 and requirements for mask wearing outdoors;
    • Enhanced screening protocols;
    • Expanded targeted testing; and
  • Childcare remains open for children younger than school aged.

For complete information on the Stay at Home Order and State of Emergency, visit ontario.ca.

In a statement issued by HPEPH,  continued vigilance of residents is essential to help keep the community safe and lift public health restrictions as soon as possible. In the Quinte region, public health restrictions, paired with the diligence and sacrifices of local residents have helped keep case rates relatively stable. However, Dr. Piotr Oglaza, Medical Officer of Health and CEO at HPEPH said our region is not immune to outbreaks or rising case rates, and residents must not become complacent. All residents are reminded that their individual actions make a difference. Every time someone chooses to stay home, they are reducing contact with others, and reducing the potential spread of illness.

Dr. Piotr Oglaza, Medical Officer of Health at Hastings Prince Edward Public Health. (HPEPH photo)

“I know you have had enough of the pandemic and we are all hopeful that 2021 will restore some sense of normalcy to our day-to-day lives. However, right now we must be patient and stay home as much as possible to reduce the spread of the virus,” stated Dr. Oglaza. “Hope is around the corner as we anticipate Phase 1 of the province’s COVID-19 vaccination plan will begin in our region shortly. However, until the majority of individuals have been vaccinated, we all must continue to do everything we can to keep case rates low and protect one another.”

Oglaza noted Kingston Health Sciences Centre (KHSC) announced the first administration of COVID-19 vaccines to long-term care workers in the south east region on Wednesday. While it is anticipated that Phase 1 of the province’s COVID-19 vaccination plan will begin in in the Quinte area shortly, timelines regarding arrival and distribution of vaccine continue to evolve as vaccine is received and transported.

According to HPEPH, the province has indicated that the COVID-19 vaccine will be rolled out across the province in three key phases.

  • As rates of COVID-19 continue to be relatively stable in HPEC, it is expected that Phases will be rolled out gradually in the region over many months, as the region will likely receive several shipments, each with a limited number of vaccines.
  • Larger amounts of vaccine are being prioritized to those higher risk zones like Grey and Red that were identified before the Provincial lockdown.

Phase One began in high risk areas in late 2020. As part of Phase 1, it is anticipated that a limited supply of vaccine will begin to be administered to priority groups in the HPEPH region in mid to late January.

  • As part of Phase 1, HPEPH is working closely with KHSC and other eastern Public Health Units to ensure efficient and equitable distribution of the vaccine to priority groups in the region.
  • As HPEPH is alerted that shipments of the vaccine are coming to the region, we will work to ensure it is administered efficiently and equitably to priority populations.
  • As the goal of phase 1 is to reduce the number of deaths from COVID-19, those who are most at risk, and those who work with high risk individuals, are being prioritized.
  • The first phase of the rollout will involve working closely with Long-Term Care and high-risk Retirement Home staff and residents who will be eligible to receive the vaccine.
  • It is anticipated that Phase 1 will also make vaccination available for hospital workers, first nations communities, and chronic home care recipients.

Phase Two will begin when an increased stockpile of vaccines becomes available to Ontario.

  • During phase two, it is expected that vaccinations will be expanded to other priority settings such as congregate living facilities, older adults, frontline essential workers, and individuals with chronic conditions and their caregivers.
  • As vaccines are being prioritized for regions with highest rates of COVID-19, we expect Phase 2 will not begin in HPEC for some time.

Ontario will enter Phase Three when vaccines are available for every Ontarian who wishes to be immunized. While vaccines will not be mandated, during Phase Three, people will be strongly encouraged to get vaccinated.

As demand for vaccine continues to exceed supply, HPEPH says the public must be patient and understand that such widespread vaccination will take time. For more information about the provincial vaccination program, please visit Ontario.ca.

Widespread vaccination is essential to improve community immunity and end the pandemic. However, patience is required as vaccines are prioritized to those who need them most. By vaccinating and protecting people in priority groups as soon as possible, the possibility of COVID-19 outbreaks will be decreased among those who are at greatest risk of severe illness or death from the virus.

“The team at Hastings Prince Edward Public Health once again thanks all residents for making responsible choices to protect their own health and the health of the community. All residents are urged to stay home as much as possible over the next few weeks. In addition, please continue to monitor for symptoms of COVID-19 and if you feel unwell – get tested – even if your symptoms are mild. These continued efforts will help keep the number of positive cases low in our area and help our community stay safe until vaccines are available to all,” Oglaza added