KAWARTHA LAKES-The Haliburton, Kawartha, Pine Ridge District Health Unit has been notified that initial screening of a local resident who has COVID has shown the person has the markers consistent with the Omicron variant.
Although Omicron has not yet been confirmed in this individual, Dr. Natalie Bocking, Medical Officer of Health for the HKPR District Health Unit says this screening means it is “highly likely” that this is an Omicron variant infection. This individual lives in Northumberland County, making this the first potential case of Omicron identified in a resident of the Health Unit’s region.
Under provincial protocols, all COVID-19 tests are now screened for the Omicron variant. Health Units are notified if the initial screening identifies any of the markers for the variant. Like all confirmed cases of COVID-19, this individual has been contacted by Health Unit staff and is isolating. As well, any potential high-risk contacts are being notified.
There were 1,808 new cases of COVID reported in Ontario today. 1046 of those are in the fully vaccinated, 625 in the unvaccinated, 98 unknown status and 39 partially vaccinated.
To protect the privacy of all individuals, the Health Unit will not provide any additional information about this, or any case of COVID-19.
“The confirmation that the Omicron variant has been detected in our area is not unexpected given we have seen cases in our neighbouring health unit areas,” says Dr. Natalie Bocking, Medical Officer of Health for the HKPR District Health Unit. “While we do not want people to panic, we do want to highlight the continued need for everyone to be vigilant in following public health measures to help protect themselves and their families from the spread of the virus.”
These measures include:
- Get fully vaccinated to help protect yourself and those most vulnerable. This includes getting a booster dose if you are eligible.
- Screen for symptoms of COVID-19 daily.
- Stay home, isolate, and get tested if you have any symptoms, even mild.
- Avoid large social gatherings.
- Stay 2 metres apart from people you do not live with and wear a mask in indoor spaces.
- Consider curbside pick-up, delivery, or alternate hours for shopping, especially if you are at a higher risk for illness.
As a result of a spike in COVID cases locally the health unit is also making the following changes:
Mass immunization clinics: beginning December 16, the Health Unit will no longer be accepting walk-ins at any of its mass immunization clinics. Walk-ins had been accepted during the last hour of scheduled clinics, but with the increased demand for third doses we can no longer accommodate walk-ins at the clinics. Additional appointments are being added to clinics and residents are strongly encouraged to book an appointment for their first, second and third dose of vaccine through the provincial booking system at https://covid-19.ontario.ca/book-vaccine/ or by calling 1-833-943-3900 (TTY for people who are deaf, hearing-impaired or speech-impaired: 1-866-797-0007).
As well, anyone interested in receiving a third dose of vaccine can also reach out to their local pharmacies or primary health care provider.
High-risk contacts: anyone who is identified as a high-risk contact of a confirmed case in a school setting will now receive a letter outlining quarantine and testing requirements. Health Unit staff will continue to directly contact individuals who are confirmed cases. Additional information for high-risk contacts is available on the Health Unit’s website at www.hkpr.on.ca. As cases continue to surge, the Health Unit will continue to communicate what type of communications high-risk contacts can expect to receive.
Non-COVID programming: With an increase in cases, the Health Unit has also taken some non-COVID programming back offline. This includes pausing sexual health clinics, no-doctor vaccination clinics for children, Healthy Babies Healthy Children programming and some inspection services. Staff from these programs have been redeployed back to clinics or case investigation.
The Omicron variant was first detected in South Africa and the first case was identified in Ontario at the end of November. Additional details on the variant are still being gathered and reviewed but has been determined that it has a higher transmissibility than the Delta variant and it expected that Omicron will be the dominant strain in the province in the coming weeks, if not sooner. Preliminary information is also showing that those with Omicron are less ill with the virus, but that the current vaccines are less effective against this variant. For this reason, household members of unvaccinated contacts of cases will also be required to quarantine until negative test results are available.