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Media Release: Board of Health Update – December 2021

Hastings and Prince Edward Counties/ Dec. 1, 2021

Today, the Hastings Prince Edward Board of Health (BOH) held its regular meeting for December 2021. The meeting was conducted by teleconference as part of Hastings Prince Edward Public Health’s (HPEPH) COVID-19 safety measures.

Board of Health approves Budget for 2022

Today, the Board of Health approved the HPEPH budget for 2022. The budget reflects the anticipated need for ongoing pandemic response in 2022, including continued management of COVID-19 cases, and COVID-19 immunization for eligible groups.

Another key priority for HPEPH in 2022 will involve helping local residents catch up on outstanding immunizations for school-aged children and babies that were not completed in 2020 and 2021 due to the pandemic response.

The budget presentation is available for review on the website.

Residents urged to get vaccinated, limit close contacts, and stay home when sick in response to rising COVID-19 cases

Dr. Ethan Toumishey, Acting Medical Officer of Health for HPEPH, updated the BOH on local COVID-19 case rates. He explained that while the majority of HPE residents have made the safe choice to get fully vaccinated, the risk of community COVID-19 transmission is currently high in the region. Many individuals are still partially vaccinated or unvaccinated in the region, including children age 11 and under, which contributes to the risk of community spread. Currently there are 151 active cases in the region and 66 per cent of these are unvaccinated or partially vaccinated.

While a gradual increase in case rates was expected as people moved indoors, the sudden surge is very concerning. In the interest of protecting the region and the upcoming holiday season, residents are urged to take action to reduce potential spread of the virus by getting vaccinated as soon as possible, getting a booster shot if eligible, and limiting their close contacts. To limit close contacts, keep any social gatherings small, and keep your contacts consistent.

“With the holiday season around the corner, we need to do everything we can to reverse the increase of cases in the region and protect those who continue to be vulnerable,” says Dr. Toumishey. “Even if you are vaccinated, you must continue to take precautions. Do not ignore symptoms of illness. Stay home and get tested if you have any symptom, even if your symptoms are mild.”

To book your appointment for COVID-19 vaccination at an HPEPH clinic, visit covid-19.ontario.ca/book-vaccine/. Many pharmacies also offer COVID-19 vaccination. Find pharmacies offering vaccine at covid-19.ontario.ca/vaccine-locations.

For COVID-19 testing options, visit hpePublicHealth.ca/getting-tested-for-covid-19/.

Changes to the COVID-19 Dashboard

HPEPH has made changes to the COVID-19 Dashboard to make it easier for residents to quickly assess the local risk level. The addition of a colour-based risk level to the top of the dashboard is for informational purposes only. While this change does not indicate changes to public health measures currently in place in HPEPH, which remains in Step 3 of the Reopening Plan, it should encourage residents to modify their personal choices and behaviours to reduce their risk of exposure.

Red indicates very high risk, orange indicates high risk, yellow indicates moderate risk, and green indicates low risk. This indicator is currently red in HPEC.

In addition, effective today, HPEPH is using 2020 Statistics Canada population estimates to calculate COVID-19 testing and vaccination rates in HPE. This change has resulted in a 2.6% increase in population numbers. In the past these rates have been based on population projections from the Ontario Ministry of Finance. As a result, the depicted percentage of individuals vaccinated in HPE has decreased slightly.

Staffing changes at HPEPH

Dr.Toumishey announced the forthcoming retirement of Eric Serwotka, Director of Community Programs. After 16 years as a director at Hastings Prince Edward Public Health, Eric will be retiring in February 2022.

Eric joined the team at HPEPH in February 2006 as the Director of Inspection Services and Infection Control. Prior to coming to HPEPH, he held positions at several public health agencies, including Porcupine HU, Haldimand-Norfolk HU, and Chatham-Kent HU. Dr. Toumishey noted that Eric’s knowledge, valuable experience, professionalism and warm personality will be greatly missed by everyone who has had the pleasure of working with him.

Shelly Brown, Program Manager Healthy Families, will be the new Director of Community Programs. Shelly began her career at HPEPH in 2002 and has played a key role in the implementation of our vaccine delivery program.

Board requests further staff review of proposed Land Acknowledgement

Veronica Montgomery, Manager of Foundational Standards and Communications presented the proposed land acknowledgement to the Board today.

The proposed land acknowledgement was developed with consultation from Mohawks of the Bay of Quinte, Kijicho Manito Madaouskarini Algonquin First Nation and the Métis Nation of Ontario. In addition, it was developed with input from HPEPH staff, recognizing that personal and organizational reflection is a critical step in the development of a meaningful land acknowledgement.

Establishing a meaningful land acknowledgment is a priority for HPEPH. The BOH referred the proposed amendment back to staff for further review and possible amendment due to concerns with terminology.

Enforcement Report

The Board received the 2021 Enforcement Report. While annual enforcement activities are usually presented to the Board in March, given the significant environmental health risks that COVID-19 has presented this year, a special report was brought forward earlier in our reporting cycle. It informs the Board and the public of recent COVID-19 enforcement activities, in addition to HPEPH’s regular enforcement activities. To date in 2021, there have been 50 COVID-19 related charges. The full report is available for review on the website.

Starting in January 2022, HPEPH will also begin posting charges and convictions for COVID-19 related-offences on the HPEPH website.

“The vast majority of the businesses in our community have been diligent in following COVID-19 requirements to protect the health and safety of their customers and workers and I want to thank them for their ongoing efforts,” said Dr. Toumishey. “We are continuing to educate and support local businesses to ensure they can operate as safely as possible and their efforts have helped to protect our community from COVID-19. Everyone has a role to play and we must continue to work together as a community to mitigate the risks and impact of COVID-19.”

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Media contacts

Maureen Hyland, Communications Specialist
mhyland@hpeph.ca

Emily Tubbs, Communications Specialist
etubbs@hpeph.ca

About Hastings Prince Edward Public Health

Hastings Prince Edward Public Health (HPEPH) is a public health agency that serves the counties of Hastings and Prince Edward from four local offices. We monitor the health of our local population, deliver programs and services within our communities, and help develop healthy public policies. We provide information and support in many areas to help improve the health and well-being of our residents. Together with our communities, we help people become as healthy as they can be. For more information, please visit hpePublicHealth.ca. You can also find us on Facebook or follow us on Twitter and Instagram.

We invite community partners and residents to share this Media Release with their respective networks.

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COVID-19 PROTOCOLS

Symptoms or exposure? Visit www.ontario.ca/exposed for the most up to date information about what to do.

For the most up to date information on current provincial restrictions, visit https://covid-19.ontario.ca/public-health-measures.

The Ministry of Health has launched a new toll-free line as an additional resource to help answer questions from the public regarding evolving COVID-19 testing and isolation guidance. The line can be reached at 1-888-777-0730, and is available from 8 am to 6 pm, 7 days a week.

COVID-19 VACCINES IN HPEPH

Appointments for individuals 5+ can be booked through the provincial vaccine booking site, or by calling 1-833-943-3900 from 8 am to 8 pm, 7 days a week.  Visit the HPEPH vaccine booking web page for details.