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HKPR medical officer discusses several COVID-19 related items

DAN CEARNS, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, for The Standard

KAWARTHA LAKES: Haliburton, Kawartha, Pine Ridge District Health Unit’s (HKPR) Medical Officer of Health, Dr. Natalie Bocking, provided reporters with information on a number of COVID-19 related items during a recent virtual press conference.

Dr. Bocking explained the health unit’s focus has shifted from regular individual contact tracing to mainly focusing on outbreaks and high-risk settings. She added the isolation period for those fully vaccinated who have tested positive or think they’ve been exposed to COVID-19 is now five days. Those who are unvaccinated or have a medical problem that impacts their immune response are required to isolate for 10 days. Due to a shortage of COVID-19 tests, the health unit is advising people that the case numbers they release don’t paint the whole picture of the virus’ spread in the community.

“The numbers we are reporting are an underestimate of the actual number of cases in the community,” Dr. Bocking said. The variant has also caused a spike in hospital admissions in the health unit area.

“In the last 14 days, we have had nine people admitted to hospital, and that is definitely a significant increase from the last couple of months, where we did not see many hospital admissions. Unfortunately, we do have four individuals who are currently admitted to Intensive Care Units,” the local medical officer noted.

Regarding vaccinations of youth aged five to 11, Dr. Bocking said the number of this age group who have received one dose of vaccine is “much lower than where we would like it to be.”

“We know vaccination among this age group will significantly help to reduce broader community transmission and will help overall to prevent illness among that age group,” she explained.

With new provincial restrictions going into effect in Ontario last week, Dr. Bocking was asked what her message is to those who feel like they’re in an endless cycle of governments lifting and implementing restrictions.

“It feels like a bit of Groundhog Day or déjà vu. I think if we think back to the fall, when we think about the Delta variant, we had good vaccination coverage, and we weren’t seeing the same level of severe illness. So we didn’t need the same level of restrictions. This time around, it is a bit different because the vaccines didn’t work as well as we wanted them to, and we didn’t have booster doses into everybody. So I think public health restrictions are not an automatic in this COVID-19 response. As we get other tools like vaccination, like treatments [which] might decrease the amount of time people are ill, then we don’t need to do these broader measures [which] are aimed at protecting our healthcare system from collapsing,” she responded.

Dr. Bocking also provided a hopeful message to residents.

“My approach is we take each day as it comes. I think it’s extra hard sometimes in winter when it’s grey outside, and we’re not able to see the folks we’d like to see. But we know a couple of weeks from now [it] is going to look very different. So, day by day, things are going to look different. And if anything, get outside if you’re able to, go for a walk if you’re able to, find other ways to connect with family,” she said. “Go back to the things which make you feel healthy and well, and I think we’ve demonstrated and proven we can get through this.”

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