By Sue Tiffin, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter
The following are brief reports from a Haliburton, Kawartha, Pine Ridge district health unit press conference held March 17, and a board of health meeting held March 18.
One vaccination clinic in each Northumberland County and City of Kawartha Lakes began last week, with one vaccination clinic beginning in Haliburton County this week, and all six of the clinics set up throughout the region beginning April 5.
Dr. Ian Gemmill, acting medical officer of health, told board of health members last week that 1,000 doses had been given to Haliburton Highlands Health Services to use both for high-risk healthcare workers and also for people over the age of 80.
“I think if we had all the vaccine in the world we could clearly be immunizing faster,” he said, noting the wait for availability of vaccine. “It’s not hanging around in freezers, it’s all being spoken for.”
All long-term care residents who wish to have the vaccine have been vaccinated, said Gemmill, adding that the health unit would be looking into immunizations at retirement homes this week.
During the board of health meeting, it was announced that A.J. LaRue arena in Haliburton would be the second location for a vaccination clinic in Haliburton County, alongside S.G. Nesbitt arena in Minden.
Gemmill said the health unit was receiving about 6,000 vaccines a week – 1,000 vaccines per clinic per week – or about 200 per day if a clinic runs five days, which he said is “pretty meagre.”
“I wish we had more vaccine to be able to do more people now, we don’t,” he said. “I’m really looking forward to the point in time where we can really ramp this up even more. We can do hundreds of people a day, maybe thousands of people a day, at six clinics, if we have the vaccine.”
Gemmill has said numerous times that his priority is ensuring there is one vaccine for every appointment being made, so residents don’t encounter a problem seen elsewhere in the province in which supply has not been available for appointments made.
“That’s why I think a way of doing this bit by bit, even though it may be frustrating for some of our residents, is a better way of doing it so that when they get an appointment they know they’re going to get a shot,” said Gemmill. “The message to the elderly people: Please be patient, everyone’s going to get their vaccine. Be patient, everybody is going to get the chance to get this vaccine, nobody’s going to be left behind.”
Haliburton County reports increase in COVID-19 after case-free month
“In Haliburton [County], we’ve had some activity over the last little while,” said Gemmill, in discussing cases in the health region which includes Haliburton County, City of Kawartha Lakes and Northumberland County. “About 15 per cent of the cases now have occurred in Haliburton County in the last 14 days. That’s a little bit of a change because Haliburton had been relatively quiet for the better part of a month, actually so this is a new development.”
At press time on March 22, there were 10 current cases of confirmed COVID-19 in Haliburton County, including one case in a staff member at Hyland Crest long-term care home in Minden and two cases in students at Haliburton Highlands Secondary School. Since the start of the pandemic in March 2020, 66 local cases have been confirmed. One variant of concern has been identified.
“It does, however, reinforce a point that I really want to make with [media] and the public, which is that, you never know where this pandemic is going, and just because things are quiet for awhile doesn’t mean it’s over. It just means that it’s quiet for awhile,” Gemmill said.
He added that in the past few weeks there have been more variants of concern – more highly transmissible mutations of the virus – reported in the health unit region, as well as in the province – about half of the cases reported in Ontario are identified as variant cases.
“In this area it’s not quite 50 per cent that are variants of concern, but … we almost have to deal with it as though every case is a variant of concern.”
As he does each week, Gemmill reminded the public that, “we’re not out of the woods yet, things can change on a dime.” He referenced outbreaks at a student residence in Peterborough and at Queen’s University.
“It doesn’t take very much, just a few ill-advised gatherings, and that kind of thing, and the next thing you know, we’re putting out fires everywhere,” he said.
Learn more online
For more information, watch the most recent Talk with the Doc session, held March 16, or sign up for the next session on March 30 at https://www.hkpr.on.ca/2021/02/09/sign-up-for-talk-with-the-doc-virtual-town-hall/. Visit the health unit’s website at http://www.hkpr.on.ca for most updated information, including a Click and Connect feature that offers residents the chance to ask a question, report a complaint or check the most recent case count and the number of vaccines given.