With Ontario set to move into step three of the province’s reopening plan on Friday (July 16) at 12:01 a.m., Peterborough’s medical officer of health is appealing to residents to remain vigilant as the province enters this milestone of the pandemic.
During a Peterborough Public Health media briefing held Thursday (July 15), Dr. Rosana Salvaterra said susceptible children and unvaccinated adults in the community “could continue to fuel clusters and outbreaks — especially as we enter step three.”
As additional indoor settings reopen and gathering limits increase, Dr.Salvaterra said following public health measures will be critical for Peterborough’s case numbers to remain under control.
At the media briefing, Peterborough Public Health’s manager of environmental services Julie Ingram spoke to the precautions residents should be taking in step three.
“Individuals need to make sure that they’re following the rules and complying with the regulatory requirements that businesses are required to put in place,” said Ingram. “This means that all individuals are going to be expected to follow physical distancing requirements, wearing a mask or face covering in an indoor setting, and staying home when you’re not feeling well. If you even have a runny nose, do not go out.”
Contact tracing will be more critical and more complex during this next stage in the pandemic, Dr. Salvaterra added.
“I urge you, if you haven’t already downloaded your COVID contact tracing app, please do so and please activate it,” said Dr. Salvaterra.
Peterborough enters step three at a far better case rate than the previous week. As of July 15 at 4:10 p.m., the health unit reported 13 active cases — a significant drop from last week’s 29 cases.
Nevertheless, Peterborough’s weekly case incidence is still higher than the provincial average, with both the highly transmissible alpha and delta variants responsible for the latest cases.
“As we head into step three tomorrow along with the rest of the province, I do remain concerned that our higher case incidence rate locally, combined with the increased access to settings — especially indoor settings — can put us at risk for increased transmission, especially since we have both variants circulating here,” Dr. Salvaterra said.
There are currently two active COVID-19 outbreaks in the region, an increase of one since last week. The first outbreak, which was initially reported last week, is in an outdoor workplace setting. The new outbreak is at a congregate living setting. Both outbreaks are in the City of Peterborough.
Dr. Salvaterra noted that Peterborough Public Health staff are addressing the latest outbreak by supporting infection prevention measures.
“All residents have been offered testing,” she noted. “The staff identified as high-risk contacts are self-isolating.”
Ontario enters the third and final step of reopening after meeting the required vaccination threshold of 70 to 80 per cent of the adult population vaccinated with a single dose and 25 per cent with both doses.
In Peterborough, Dr. Salvaterra noted that vaccination rates continue to climb. Seventy-eight per cent of local adults over the age of 18 and 63.7 per cent of local youth aged 12 to 17 have received their first dose of a COVID-19 vaccine. Over 56 per cent of local adults aged 18 and older and 13.2 per cent of local youth aged 12 to 17 are now fully immunized.
About 1,500 first doses and 15,000 second doses have been administered to Peterborough residents in the past week.
“Although the numbers and the percentages of fully immunized youth still have room to grow, I think it is really encouraging to see the pace of that growth just in the last week,” said Dr. Salvaterra, noting that there has been a nine per cent increase in vaccinated youth this week.
Dr. Salvaterra is urging residents to go and get their COVID-19 vaccine if they have not yet done so and, for those with second dose appointments in August, to move their appointments to an earlier date.
“We have lots of vaccine coming to Peterborough, and we have a great number of appointments still available at our immunization clinics,” said Dr. Salvaterra. “Currently, there are 14,000 open appointments available for anyone wanting to book their first or second dose before the end of July.”
The mass immunization clinic in the Evinrude Centre is accepting walk-ins for first doses every night between 5 p.m. and 7 p.m. Youth aged 12 to 17 can attend te walk-in clinic at Peterborough Regional Health Centre for their first dose of vaccine any day between 8 a.m. and 1 p.m.
To move up your second dose appointment to a sooner date, visit the Ontario COVID-19 vaccine booking website at ontario.ca/bookvaccine, or call the vaccine booking line at 1-833-943-3900.
“I strongly encourage local residents to accelerate their second dose appointments and get vaccinated as soon as possible,” said Dr. Salvaterra. “Please remember that there may be a pharmacy near you that can provide you with easy access to either Moderna or Pfizer vaccine.”
In step three, Ontario still has vaccination targets to exit into a new sense of normalcy. In order to exit step three, 80 per cent of the eligible population are to have received one dose of vaccine and 75 per cent with both doses, with no health unit less than 70 per cent fully vaccinated.
As of July 15 at 4:10 p.m., there are 13 active cases of COVID-19 in the Peterborough region — a decrease of 16 active cases since last week. There have been 22 COVID-related deaths in the region to date.