Kingston has now reached 1,000 total COVID-19 cases: what does that mean?

Kingston, Ont. resident Terry McLaughlin says throughout the pandemic, he has felt the Limestone City is a safe place to live.

"I feel safe in Kingston because the people I hang around with we don’t see each other very often, but we do know enough and we are very careful when we get together, we socially distance," McLaughlin explained during an interview with CTV News Ottawa.

The Kingston, Frontenac, Lennox and Addington Health Region (KFL&A) hit a milestone this week, officially surpassing 1,000 COVID-19 cases since the start of the pandemic.

This comes as local public health continues to ramp up vaccinations.

The health unit confirms, as of Thursday, that it leads the provinces in COVID-19 vaccinations distributed per capita, with 30 per cent of its population having gotten at least the first shot, citing the pharmacy pilot project that was launched in the region in March.

Queen’s University infectious disease expert Dr. Gerald Evans says the health region has a population of over 200,000 people, making 1,000 cases so far, a good number.

"We’re talking about over an entire year, and that actually reflects given the population where we are in southeastern Ontario, that’s actually a very small number of individuals, and even in KFL&A," he explains to CTV News Ottawa.

Kingston has had one death during the pandemic, and no long-term care-related deaths.

As of Thursday, KFL&A public health’s COVID-19 dashboard says there one person in hospital, but no local residents are in the ICU, although it has taken about a dozen people from outside the region.

Evans says a big factor in controlling the spread is residents following local health guidelines.

"Ninety per cent of people in our region very carefully, consistently, and correctly follow the public health restrictions that are out there. That includes mask wearing, physical distancing," says Evans.

In a statement, Medical Officer of Health Dr. Kieran Moore, says many in the region continue to get tested, and have "embraced prevention measures."

"Individuals adhered to a social and physical distancing, wearing a face covering, good hand hygiene and I would like to thank the community for their vigilance," said Dr. Moore in the statement. "Research shows if the community embraces prevention early on and maintains it, we can limit the spread. That has been the cornerstone of KFL&A Public Health's approach."

Dr. Evans says public health staying on top of contact tracing, and warning the public to monitor for symptoms during outbreaks, has worked as well.

"The opportunity for public health to be able to do contact tracing, testing and isolating people who haven’t been infected, that’s a huge part of the success we’ve had here."

Businesses say they feel confident in local officials as well, even during uncertain times.

The Frontenac Club is a hotel and restaurant that opened its doors in August 2020, in the middle of the pandemic. Co-owner Sean Billing says he feels public health has been good for their communication skills.

"I’d give them a pretty strong score. In fact, I wish they were running more of the province," laughs Billing.

Billing says the city of Kingston, local BIA and Tourism Kingston have worked together closely.

"There’s lots of opportunities for business to be able to understand where to get support and help so I think as a collective, that entire group within our community has been very effective."

As the third wave continues to move across the province, and the region enters its third lockdown as of Thursday, Evans says it’s important that many continue to follow those guidelines.