Ted Raymond CTV News Ottawa Digital Multi-Skilled Journalist
The Kingston, Frontenac, Lennox & Addington (KFL&A) Public Health unit is clamping down on gatherings amid a dramatic rise in COVID-19 cases in the region.
Medical officer of health Dr. Piotr Oglaza issued a Section 22 class order Monday to prohibit large gatherings. It also places new restrictions on indoor dining and alcohol sales at certain hours.
“Cases are increasing at a concerning rate and it is clear we must take further action to protect our community,” Oglaza said in a press release. “We are issuing this class order and asking everyone to adhere to these social gathering limitations.”
The order comes into effect at 6 p.m. Monday and will remain in place until 11:59 a.m. the following Monday, Dec. 20.
Under the order, residents of the KFL&A region are prohibited from hosting or attending indoor or outdoor social gatherings or organized public events with more than five people.
Businesses that offer food and drink must also adhere to the following rules:
“We have come so far, and as we provide increasing immunity to our community through immunization, we must all be vigilant and keep our community safe. We all have a responsibility to adhere to public health measures—monitor for symptoms, stay home when ill, reduce social contacts, and avoid social gatherings,” Oglaza said.
Failure to comply with these new restrictions can result in fines of up to $5,000 for every day or part of a day on which the offence occurs or continues.
The health unit announced Monday afternoon that the region has 908 active COVID-19 cases, up from 618 on Friday. Of those, 35 people are in hospital, with 14 in the ICU. Nine people are on ventilators.
The region has seen 350.3 new cases per 100,000 population in the last seven days. For comparison, Ottawa has seen 56.4 cases per 100,000 population in the last seven days, while Toronto’s weekly incidence rate is 29.5 per 100,000.
Oglaza told reporters Monday during a press conference that KFL&A Public Health has identified 263 suspected cases of the Omicron variant, which must be confirmed through genetic testing. Oglaza says Omicron will soon become the dominant strain within the region.
He said the most important thing anyone can do is receive a COVID-19 vaccine booster shot if they are eligible. Oglaza added that the new restrictions are meant to help break the chain of infection in the region.
"I’ve introduced measures in Kingston to address specific patterns of risk and spread that are really intended to get better control of the local situation," he said. "Whether or not these measures would be appropriate or applicable for the rest of the province, it is impossible to say right now. These are the measures that are intended to balance that reduced risk with the need to preserve vital function of society and our community. We may not have that dire need for a lockdown at this point, but we certainly have need for some very specific measures to reduce social interactions and minimize the risk of spread."
Late last week, KFL&A Public Health issued new self-isolation guidelines.
Queen’s University declared a COVID-19 outbreak in the student community and cancelled all in-person exams.
On Monday. St. Lawrence College said final exams would shift to alternative delivery starting Tuesday, while smaller in-person lab tests will proceed on campus as planned. Campus buildings remain open with all current public health and safety measures in place but campus access remains closed to the general public.
The Limestone District School Board announced Monday eight schools would pivot to online learning because of staffing pressures due to COVID-19.
The following schools are affected:
With files from Newstalk 580 CFRA’s Zach McGibbon.
Kingston residents walk down the street wearing masks during the COVID-19 pandemic. (Kimberley Johnson / CTV News Ottawa)
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