Hastings and Prince Edward Counties/March 3, 2021
Today, the Hastings Prince Edward board of Health held its regular meeting for March 2021. The meeting was conducted by teleconference as part of Hastings Prince Edward Public Health’s (HPEPH) COVID-19 safety measures.
Variants of Concern identified in Hastings Prince Edward
Two separate cases of COVID-19 in Hastings and Prince Edward Counties have screened as positive for a variant of the virus. The variants were sent to Public Health Ontario’s provincial lab for genomic sequencing to identify the specific variant, but the lab was unable to complete the sequencing for the first case and sequencing is pending for the second, Dr. Ethan Toumishey, Medical Resident, told the Board this morning.
The individuals who screened positive for a variant isolated throughout their contagious period and the risk to the community is low. However, the identification of COVID-19 variants of concern (VOC) in our region serves as a somber reminder that we are not immune to the spread of the virus and variants.
While it is normal for viruses to change and evolve over time, Dr. Toumishey explained that COVID-19 VOCs may be more contagious, be able to spread more quickly, infect more people, and could potentially cause more severe illness[i]. As COVID-19 VOCs are still new, evidence continues to emerge about their potential risks.
“As certain variants have been identified as being significantly more contagious than the original strain, ongoing adherence to public health measures is essential to keep one another safe until vaccines are available to all,” said Dr. Toumishey. “Each of us must continue to do our part to prevent the spread of all strains of COVID-19 and avoid more restrictive public health precautions in our region.”
Cases of COVID-19 variants in HPEPH are being continuously monitored and beginning March 4, 2021 they will be reported on the HPEPH COVID-19 Dashboard.
COVID-19 Immunization Planning and Vaccine Roll Out
HPEPH’s COVID-19 Vaccine Roll Out Plan is well underway for individuals in the Phase 1 priority groups. By March 12, HPEPH will have administered more than 4000 vaccines, including second doses for allresidents in local long-term care homes, high-risk retirement homes and the Tyendinaga Elders Lodge.
Dr. Oglaza thanked the community for their continued vigilance as the vaccines are distributed to the highest and high priority groups and noted that and It will take time for COVID-19 vaccines to be distributed to everyone in the community.
HPEPH posts a weekly vaccine update to the website and also provides updates on the vaccine roll out and eligible groups through social media, local media, and health care and community partners.
HPEPH Piloting Provincial Vaccine Booking System
HPEPH, along with five other public health units, is piloting Ontario’s Vaccine Booking System by offering an invitation to book vaccination appointments to a small group of eligible individuals.
The pilot, which began on March 1 and continues for two weeks, has an aim to test and refine components of the Provincial Vaccine Booking System to help ensure success when it is launched province-wide on March 15. HPEPH’s participation in the pilot not only benefits the provincial launch, but also gives public health the opportunity to refine internal processes before it becomes widely available.
Dr. Oglaza reminded the board that the pilot is only for a small group of eligible individuals who have been contacted directly by HPEPH.