Kingston organizations share messages of hope amid a stressful pandemic

As the world’s fight with COVID-19 continues to be in the spotlight, new variants and rising cases are making headlines in the news within the Kingston region in a similar manner. 

Ontario returned to Step 2 of its Roadmap tp Reopening last week with schools shutting down in-person classes until at least Jan. 17 and a ban on indoor dining and gyms. The capacity limits are also reduced to five in indoor settings for 21 days. 

KFL&A Public Health says that the Kingston community has been resilient through all the hardships and is working together to end the pandemic. 

“The COVID-19 pandemic has been a long and difficult experience for everyone in the KFL&A region. We have witnessed firsthand how municipalities, health care systems, businesses, and residents quickly adapted to the challenges and pulled together to find creative and effective solutions to respond to the pandemic,” Dr. Piotr Oglaza, Medical Officer of Health at KFL&A Public Health, said. 

Dr. Oglaza commended municipalities’ efforts from the beginning on how they declared a local state of emergency early in 2020. It ensured ongoing access to the necessary resources to keep the economy open and healthy community. The health care system and providers also worked collaboratively across the continuum of care to support access to critical services available to meet the health needs of our community.

Another vital input was from the business community who adapted their practices to offer goods and services in new and unique ways. 

“They (businesses) have made enormous sacrifices, but throughout it all, they have prioritized their staff and customers’ safety,” he added. 

Dr. Oglaza also appreciated the residents who have demonstrated immense strength and resilience in their efforts to adhere to public health measures. 

According to the KFL&A Public health, the region has the highest rate per capita of dose administration over the past few weeks, the highest rate in the province of third dose coverage for individuals 70 years and over, and the highest rate of first dose coverage for those aged five to 11 years old at 57.8 percent.

The pandemic has affected all, but it has been more challenging on marginalized members of our community, especially regarding basic needs like food, shelter, and mental health and addictions, as shared by Bhavana Varma, United Way KFL&A President and CEO.

“These challenges have led to more collaboration and collective efforts to look at programs with a people-centred approach,” she added.

The community agencies have adapted to online services and provided virtual counselling, meals to go programs, Integrated Care Hub, Community Food Redistribution Warehouse and isolation options for people who are in vulnerable situations. 

In addition to the health impact, the most significant hit of the pandemic has been on the businesses, particularly small businesses and entrepreneurs. 

“COVID has served as a reminder that the only constant in life is change. The past two years have seen significant disruptions to businesses and their employees: pivots to virtual services and events, constant policy and program updates, and whole new vocabulary to learn,” Karen Cross, Chief Executive Officer of Greater Kingston Chamber of Commerce, said. 

Throughout all the situation, the Greater Kingston Chamber of Commerce has been trying to help small businesses ride the waves and keep their heads above water, as explained by Cross. Most importantly, the Chamber focuses on increasing its capacity in communications and knowledge sharing so that businesses can get crucial information about keeping their work afloat. Other essential services introduced include ‘shop local campaign’ and ‘rapid test kit program,’ to support members operating their businesses. 

“For us, 2022 will be about ensuring we build back better, leaving no one behind in our city’s economic recovery and addressing the systemic issues that are holding back Kingston’s growth and success,” Cross said. 

Despite all the chaos and hardship, the community knows that there is light at the end of the tunnel. 

“Collectively, the community continues to step up to support each other with donations, volunteering and encouragement. These collaborations and this ability to work together is what has carried us through the pandemic and what will help us come through it stronger than ever in KFL&A,” Varma said. 

The impact of the COVID-19 pandemic has been chaotic, stressful and challenging on all fronts. The local organizations say that the way forward is to work together, get vaccinated, reduce social contacts and slow the spread of the virus as much as possible, keeping ourselves and our community safe and healthy.

Story by Zoha Khalid, YGK News, for the Local Journalism Initiative