DAN CEARNS,
Local Journalism Initiative Reporter,
for The Standard

KAWARTHA LAKES: Dr. Ian Gemmill did his last COVID-19 media update as Haliburton, Kawartha, Pine Ridge District Health Unit’s (HKPR) acting Medical Officer of Health, on Wednesday, March 31st.

Dr. Natalie Bocking is set to take on the role of the local health unit’s Medical Officer of Health this week.

“I think you are really [blessed] in the area, to have an energetic, young, really smart new Medical Officer of Health starting on Tuesday,” Dr. Gemmill said, at the start of the virtual press conference.

The COVID-19 variants of concern continue to worry Dr. Gemmill. While the variant numbers in the local health unit area aren’t increasing, as much as other places in the province, Dr. Gemmill knows things can change quickly.

“Things can turn on a dime, as you have seen in other parts of the province. You just think things are going fine, and next thing you know you have an outbreak that leads to 40 cases, or whatever. And it’s been happening here, there, everywhere, and it could happen here as well.”

But, he was optimistic about the speed of the local vaccine roll-out.“I’m actually feeling really good about it lately. We’re getting a bit more vaccine than we had originally thought,” Dr. Gemmill explained.

The health unit has been uploading April vaccine appointment dates into the provincial booking system for people 75 years of age and up. Dr. Gemmill noted it’s a two-step process. HKPR submits the appointments to the province of Ontario, and then the provincial staff collects and inputs all appointments from across the province.

This April, the province expects to move to the next phase of the vaccine roll-out, prioritizing adults aged 60 to 79, individuals with health conditions, and essential workers who can’t work from home.

“I know the province wants to move to Phase 2 in April, and I think we are getting pretty darn close to being finished Phase 1. We’ve done all the retirement homes now. We’re still working a little bit on the Chronic homecare,” Dr. Gemmill stated.

Dr. Gemmill commented on the timeline for having everyone vaccinated.

“We know this virus likes the cooler weather. In fact, I’m not really surprised to see activity at this time, in some parts of Ontario. Where were we last March? We were in lockdown because there were so many cases. Some viruses, and this looks like it is going to be one, [like] winter and early spring. But the nice weather is coming, and people can get out and have their visiting outside, keeping their distance always. I hope by the end of the summer, or the latest, by the autumn, everybody can have their two doses [of vaccine], because that means next winter is going to be so much better. I think that has to be the national goal. It certainly will be the goal for HKPR, depending on supply.”