KFL&A Public Health will focus on hospitalizations, not case counts, as true COVID-19 metric

The COVID Alert app never seemed to find its footing as part of the anti-COVID-19 arsenal Canadians were prepared to adopt. David Akin reports.

As the highly transmissible Omicron variant sweeps through the KFL&A region, medical officer of health Dr. Piotr Oglaza says hospitalizations and intensive care unit admissions will become the most important metric when measuring the impact of COVID-19 in the region.

“Our case counts may no longer be a true reflection of the impact of COVID-19 on the community because these cases are among individuals who have a milder course, they’re not impacting the health-care system,” Oglaza said during a media briefing Thursday afternoon.

“I believe that we are at the point with the wide spread in the community where it’s the hospitalization or ICU admissions that are truly the key indicator of how significant the impact is.”

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While case counts are no longer being considered the most important statistic in determining the effect of COVID-19 in Kingston, Oglaza says it is still a good indicator of its activity within the community.

Oglaza also addressed the six COVID-19-related deaths throughout KFL&A over the Christmas break, saying that one of the six was Omicron and the rest were Delta, but that all were elderly patients who had long stays in the ICU.

The 18-to-29 age group continues to see the biggest daily case increase, but Oglaza says it is starting to make its way into the older population. So far it has not led to any more hospitalizations.

“Long-term care homes or adults with other serious health conditions, these would be truly the ones who could potentially be the most impacted and even have limited protection from the vaccine based on their own immunocompromised status,” Oglaza said.

Vaccination rates continue to climb as the region has hit 90 per cent for those 12 and older, while 47.7 per cent of the population has received a booster shot.

“So with these promising statistics, we know that vaccine there might be some immune escape, but vaccines still offer excellent protection against severe COVID. It protects against hospitalization, protects against death,” Oglaza said.

He also said that with the current rate of spread throughout the region, those who are unvaccinated are likely to contract the Omicron variant before the end of next month.

“This is unfortunately not unexpected. We were expecting to see increased case counts in winter months, but with the highly transmissible Omicron variant, we are going to see even more cases throughout the month of January,” Oglaza said.

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However, the rise in case counts lessens their importance, according to Oglaza, and those who do contract the virus are likely to have less severe symptoms than they would have earlier in the pandemic.

But the health unit continues to stress the importance of following public health guidelines to stop the spread of Omicron as much as possible.

© 2021 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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