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Media Release: Board of Health Update – September 2021

Hastings and Prince Edward Counties/ September 1, 2021

Today, the Hastings Prince Edward Board of Health (BOH) held its regular meeting for September 2021. The meeting was conducted by teleconference as part of Hastings Prince Edward Public Health’s (HPEPH) COVID-19 safety measures.

Statement from Board Chair

Board Chair Jo-Anne Albert made the following statement regarding the selection of Dr. Piotr Oglaza, Medical Officer of Health and CEO, as the new Medical Officer of Health for Kingston, Frontenac, and Lennox & Addington Public Health. 

“The Hastings Prince Edward Board of Health extends its sincere congratulations to Dr. Piotr Oglaza, as he has been selected as the new Medical Officer of Health for Kingston, Frontenac , Lennox & Addington Public Health. 

We heartily thank Dr. Oglaza for his unwavering dedication and tireless work for our community and his exemplary leadership throughout the pandemic and his five-year career at Hastings Prince Edward Public Health (HPEPH). He will be greatly missed by the Board, the staff at HPEPH and partners in the health care system and the community.

While Dr. Oglaza will be leaving on October 15 for his new position, we want to reassure the community that both HPEPH’s daily operations, and the ongoing pandemic response, will not be impacted by his departure. The Board of Health has begun the necessary process to fill this crucial position. In the interim, Dr. Ethan Toumishey will be assuming the role of Acting Medical Officer of Health and CEO to ensure there is no disruption in service delivery throughout the transition. Dr. Toumishey recently joined the leadership team at HPEPH as Director of Clinical Programs, prior to which he played an integral role in HPEPH’s pandemic response while completing his residency in Public Health and Preventive Medicine.”

Read the full statement here.

Dr. Oglaza thanked the Board for their support throughout his tenure as MOH and CEO and also paid tribute to the staff at HPEPH.

“I am very proud of Hastings Prince Edward Public Health and all the public health professionals who work here,” he said. “And I want to acknowledge that our success during the pandemic would not have been achievable without the support of the Board. Despite the fiscal challenges we have faced, and continue to face, you have always acted in the best interests of our residents and have advocated for what our community needs.”

As students return to in-person learning, we all have a role to play to keep schools safe

As schools resume in-class learning this fall, Dr. Oglaza explained that keeping a low rate of infection in our communities will be critical to keeping our schools safe.

“Everyone – parents, guardians, students, educators, school boards, and public health – has a role to play in making the return to school as safe as possible,” he said. “There are two essential steps you can take to keep our community safe and help keep our students in class this year:

  • Get vaccinated if you are eligible – to protect yourself, your household, and the community
  • Stay home if you are sick. Screen yourself and your household members daily for symptoms and if you have symptoms, you must get tested – even if you are fully vaccinated.

These two steps, paired with infection control measures such as frequent hand washing, cleaning, and use of face coverings have proven to be effective at controlling the spread of COVID-19, and are critical to keep our community – and our schools – as safe as possible.”

While COVID-19 infections are much more common among the unvaccinated, everyone must maintain precautions in response to Delta variant

Dr. Ethan Toumishey, Director of Clinical Programs, updated the BOH on local COVID-19 case rates, and explained that COVID-19 case management data makes it very clear that while breakthrough COVID-19 infections in fully vaccinated individuals can occur, they are much more common among individuals who are unvaccinated.

He stated that among COVID-19 cases reported in HPEC in the month of August, cases occurred five (5) times more often in individuals who were not fully vaccinated compared to fully vaccinated individuals (for each 10,000 people that were not fully vaccinated in HPEC, there were 14 cases. In comparison, for each 10,000 fully vaccinated people in HPEC, there were only 3 cases.)  However, it is important to note that 23% of the local cases reported in the month of August did occur in fully vaccinated individuals – reiterating the need to remain vigilant, monitor for symptoms, and if symptoms occur – stay home and seek testing.

“Vaccination remains the best way to prevent the spread of COVID-19. Even when breakthrough infections occur in individuals who are immunized, these individuals are less likely to transmit the virus to others. In order to reduce the spread of the virus and reduce risks for even those who are fully vaccinated, everyone who is eligible should make a plan to get fully vaccinated as soon as possible,” Dr. Toumishey said.

In HPEPH the Delta variant is driving the current increase in case rates. In the month of August, 20 cases reported in HPEC were confirmed Delta variant and 26 cases were screened as likely to be Delta variant, for a total of 38% of August cases. As the Delta variant is much more contagious than previous variants, even fully vaccinated individuals should maintain precautions when interacting with others who are not fully vaccinated or whose vaccination status is unknown.

Board makes proactive decisions to plan for 2022 operating costs

The Board reviewed the budget assumptions for preparation of HPEPH’s 2022 Operating Budget. The COVID-19 pandemic response has resulted in many unanticipated and additional costs for HPEPH. In order to proactively plan for anticipated operational needs the Board recommended that management prepare the 2022 budget with the assumption of an increase of up to 1.5% from municipalities and allocation of up to $300,000 to be drawn from municipal reserves to balance the budget.

HPEPH continues efforts to make it as easy as possible to get vaccinated

Dr. Oglaza reported that as of August 31, 73% of HPEC residents 12 and older are fully vaccinated, and 83% have now received their first dose of COVID-19 vaccine.

He told the Board that HPEPH has been working diligently to make it as easy as possible for residents to access vaccinations by offering walk-in appointments at all clinics, doing mobile pop-up clinics at locations where people gather such as malls, parks, and farmers’ markets, and by working with community partners to provide home-based vaccination to those individuals who are unable get out to get vaccinated.

In addition, residents can access vaccination at many local pharmacies, and moving into the fall, HPEPH will continue to support local primary care providers who are interested in offering the vaccine to patients.

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Media contacts

Maureen Hyland, Communications Specialist
mhyland@hpeph.ca

Emily Tubbs, Communications Specialist
etubbs@hpeph.ca

About Hastings Prince Edward Public Health

Hastings Prince Edward Public Health (HPEPH) is a public health agency that serves the counties of Hastings and Prince Edward from four local offices. We monitor the health of our local population, deliver programs and services within our communities, and help develop healthy public policies. We provide information and support in many areas to help improve the health and well-being of our residents. Together with our communities, we help people become as healthy as they can be. For more information, please visit hpePublicHealth.ca. You can also find us on Facebook or follow us on Twitter and Instagram.

We invite community partners and residents to share this Media Release with their respective networks.

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COVID-19 VACCINES IN HPEPH

Individuals turning 12 and over in 2021 who have not yet had a first dose, or those who meet the minimum second dose interval are now eligible to attend HPEPH walk-in clinics. To view the schedule, visit the Booking and Eligibility Page.

If you attended a clinic and did not receive an email copy of your vaccination receipt you can download a copy off the provincial booking site at covid19.ontariohealth.ca.

PHARMACY-BASED VACCINATIONS

Individuals turning 12 and over in 2021 can also receive their vaccination at participating local pharmacies. Please visit covid-19.ontario.ca/vaccine-locations for location and registration information.

CURRENT RESTRICTIONS IN HPEPH

On Friday, July 16 at 12:01 a.m., Ontario moved to Step 3  of the the Roadmap to Reopen. We must all continue to follow the public health measures, advice and restrictions. Outdoor gatherings are limited to 100 people in Step 3, and distancing must be maintained. For more information, visit our COVID-19 page.

POTENTIAL EXPOSURE TO COVID-19?

If you are concerned about potential exposure to a positive case of COVID-19, please be reassured that any contacts of a confirmed case will be contacted directly and monitored by public health.

Low-risk and indirect contacts should self monitor for symptoms for 10 days from the time of potential exposure and seek testing if symptoms develop. Low risk contacts do not need to isolate unless symptoms develop, and can continue to attend school/work/daycare while monitoring for symptoms.