As Ontario’s vaccination rates rise and the province moves through the steps of reopening, Peterborough’s surge in COVID-19 cases this week reminds us that the pandemic is not yet behind us.
During a Peterborough Public Health media briefing held Thursday (July 8), Dr. Rosana Salvaterra reported 29 active cases in the community, more than double the 11 active cases the previous week, with the increase largely due to an outdoor workplace outbreak in the City of Peterborough and community transmission resulting from a Father’s Day social gathering in North Kawartha Township.
As a result, Peterborough region’s weekly case incidence rate has now jumped to 19 per hundred thousand people — up significantly from the 2.7 per hundred thousand reported last week and well above the current provincial average of nine cases per hundred thousand.
“This is the first time in the whole course of the pandemic that Peterborough’s local rate is higher than the provincial case incidence rate,” Dr. Salvaterra said. “It is not only higher, but it’s more than double the provincial rate.”
Peterborough’s case incidence rate is the fourth highest in the entire province this week, according to Dr. Salvaterra.
“When I look at these numbers, it indicates to me that we continue to be at a very precarious point in our pandemic,” Dr. Salvaterra said.
The region’s rise in cases is tied to an active outbreak at an outdoor workplace in the City of Peterborough, as well as a few clusters of transmission in North Kawartha.
The workplace outbreak, which was declared on July 6, is the first outbreak in the Peterborough region for weeks.
Although the workplace is outdoors, Dr. Salvaterra noted that an investigation found workers were not properly adhering to personal protective equipment requirements for workplaces.
“With transmissibility of these variants, despite the workers working outdoors, there was a lot of transmission that occurred,” Dr. Salvaterra said. “These variants are very transmissible, even outdoors.”
Both the alpha and delta variants make up the 29 active cases in the region, according to Dr. Salvaterra.
Along with the workplace outbreak, most of the new cases occurred in North Kawartha, where infections at a social gathering spread to a childcare setting and a local business.
Dr. Salvaterra said the North Kawartha spread is all tied to a single social gathering held on Father’s Day — before the province permitted social gatherings.
“Public health measures were not followed for the social gathering, and it spread from there,” said Dr. Salvaterra. “It doesn’t take much to light the fire and see it spread out. We saw that with the Severn Court outbreak in February. I think we’re seeing a little bit of that in North Kawartha on a smaller scale.”
Noting that other regions with high transmission rates remained in lockdown while the rest of Ontario moved to step one and two of reopening, Dr. Salvaterra said she’s concerned Peterborough could be prohibited from moving to step three unless cases decline.
“If we can follow public health measures, we can potentially move ahead to step three, but if we don’t, we can go backwards,” she noted. “I think it just reminds us that we can’t be complacent. We have to follow the rules. There’s good reason and evidence behind them.”
Among the new cases reported in the Peterborough region this week, Dr. Salvaterra said some were not vaccinated while others had only received a single dose.
“We also can observe elsewhere in the province that most hospitalized cases of COVID-19 are in patients who have either one dose or no dose of the vaccine,” Dr. Salvaterra said. “That’s why it is important to make vaccinations as accessible as possible.”
According to Peterborough Public Health’s immunization reports, 76 per cent of the eligible population have now received their first dose, and 42 per cent have received their second dose. These numbers include Peterborough residents who received their vaccines both within and outside the region.
“The numbers continue to climb, and the gap between those who’ve received just a first dose and those who’ve been fully immunized is starting to narrow,” said Dr. Salvaterra. “For adults hanging on to their late August second-dose appointments, please consider rebooking for an earlier date. We have lots of availability as of July 20.”
As for those who have yet to receive their first dose, Dr. Salvaterra noted the mass immunization clinic at the Evinrude Centre accepts walk-ins. The clinic has been administering first does to 60 to 80 walk-ins per day.
“I do encourage everyone who has not had their first dose to head down and get immunized at one of our mass immunization clinics, or head to your closest pharmacy and get yourself on a list there,” said Dr. Salvaterra.
As of July 7 at 4:50 p.m., there are 29 active cases of COVID-19 in the Peterborough region — an increase of 18 cases this week. There have been 22 COVID-related deaths in the region to date.