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Hamilton’s medical officer says to keep Thanksgiving ‘local’ and ‘small’ as COVID-19 cases rise

Hamilton's medical officer of health Dr. Elizabeth Richardson and mayor Fred Eisenberger during a COVID-19 update at city hall on March 13, 2020. Don Mitchell / Global News

With Hamilton seeing the highest number of non-institutional COVID-19 cases per day, ever, the city’s medical officer of health is making a plea to remove the big family Thanksgiving dinner plans this long weekend.

During an emergency operations centre (EOC) update on Thursday, the city’s medical officer of health Dr. Elizabeth Richardson said the city has 14 cases per day on a rolling seven-day average.

“We are definitely recommending that everybody limit their gatherings to being private gatherings with the people you live with,” said Richardson.

“Really keep it local, keep it small. If you do have somebody coming in from outside, like you’re a friend that lives on their own or a family member who lives on their own, remember to still stay physically distanced.”

Read more: Ontario reports record of over 900 coronavirus cases as new restrictions announced

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Richardson stresses that the recent spike in cases is likely a result of socialization and people not heeding public health measures, like wearing masks and physical distancing.

“It’s usually that somebody is out, gets the virus while socializing and then comes back and spreads it among their household members or perhaps a few other close contacts.”

A number of high-profile medical specialists have echoed that message over the last week, including Canada’s chief public health officer, Dr. Theresa Tam, who said indoor gatherings this weekend should be “kept small,” especially in provinces such as Quebec and Ontario where infection rates are highest.

“We’ve got some serious planning to do,” said Tam, “Not the carefree planning we had last Thanksgiving but rather some ingenious Canadian COVID-19 ‘holiday-hacks’ that will ensure there are no viruses invited or passed around at our gatherings.”

Tam suggested Canadians opt for virtual Thanksgiving dinners instead of in-person gatherings.

Read more: Coronavirus — Outbreak grows at downtown Hamilton spin studio, now has 11 COVID-19 cases

It’s a measure Hamilton Mayor Fred Eisenberger is taking to heart as he told Global News he will be dining with his extended family virtually this weekend. He also said he was an advocate for mask usage indoors when in close contact with family members.

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“Though that’s a challenge, it is important with interactions that we are making,” Eisenberger said.

Todd Coleman, assistant professor in the department of health sciences at Wilfrid Laurier University, says going into the long weekend, Ontarians need to be “a little bit more overcautious at this point.”

He believes families who have kids in school interacting with others and coming back home poses an increased risk of transmission to a family cohort.

“If there’s someone who’s at a period of high infection infectivity, the probability of infecting everyone in the household is pretty high at that point because of the enclosed nature,” Coleman said.

Hamilton reports 28 new COVID-19 cases

Hamilton public health reported 28 new COVID-19 cases on Friday, pushing the city’s total number of confirmed cases since the pandemic began to 1,296.

Officials say 42.1 per cent (62) of the city’s 147 new coronavirus cases in the last 10 days have been among people under the age of 30.

Hamilton has 127 active cases as of Oct. 9.

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The city has only one outbreak at downtown gym SPINCO, which has seen the virus spread among 21 people – 20 people with ties to the gym’s customers and a case in one staff member.

An outbreak at Rygiel Supports for Community Living which began on Sept. 27 was declared over on Friday.

Halton Region reports 59 new COVID-19 cases

Public Health Halton reported 59 new COVID-19 cases on Friday, with Burlington reporting 29 new cases and Oakville reporting 16.

The region has had 1,520 cases since the pandemic began. Public health says there are 187 active cases as of Oct. 9. Burlington has 69 active cases and a total of 365 coronavirus cases since March.

Read more: Ontario man who’s suffered months of COVID-19 symptoms — ‘I don’t even feel like I’m in my own body’

The region has a total of five outbreaks at two long-term care homes (Creek Way Village and Cama Woodlands in Burlington) and three retirement homes (Village of Tansley Woods in Burlington and Amica Bronte Harbour and Chartwell Waterford in Oakville).

The outbreak at Tansley Woods has 18 total cases in 5 staff, 3 residents and 10 other people connected to the home. Two people have died in the latest outbreak at the home.

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Public Health Halton says 58.6 per cent (133) of its 241 cases in the last 10 days were among residents under the age of 39. Burlington accounts for 95 of those cases with 48 (50.5 per cent) under the age of 39.

Niagara Region reports nine new COVID-19 cases

Niagara public health reported another nine new COVID-19 cases on Friday, bringing the region’s total number of cases to 1,174 since the pandemic began.

There are currently 111 active cases as of Oct. 9.

The region has five outbreaks connected to the coronavirus, which includes four retirement homes (Pioneer Elder Care in St. Catharines, Shalom Gardens in Grimsby, and The Meadows of Dorchester and Lundy Manor in Niagara Falls) and one nursing home (Millennium Trail Manor in Niagara Falls).

Since the pandemic was declared, 41 per cent (482) of the region’s 1,165 cases have occurred in people under the age of 39.

Read more: Coronavirus — Ontario hospitals look for ways to increase capacity, ask Ford government for help

Haldimand-Norfolk reports one new COVID-19 case

The Haldimand-Norfolk Health Unit (HNHU) reported one new COVID-19 case on Friday. The region has an overall total of 496 lab-confirmed positive cases.

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Officials say there are five active cases as of Oct. 9.

Public health says 33.2 per cent (165) of all cases in the region involve people between the ages of 20 and 39.

The HNHU says there is one current outbreak at Delrose Retirement Residence tied to a resident who tested positive for COVID-19.

Brant County reports no new COVID-19 cases

Brant County’s health unit reported no new COVID-19 cases on Friday. The region has a total of 200 confirmed cases since the pandemic began.

There are seven active cases as of Oct. 9.

Read more: Ontario to invest in ‘anti-microbial’ library at McMaster University

Public health says 37 per cent (74) of all cases in the county involve people between the ages of 20 and 39.

The region has no institutional outbreaks at long-term care or retirement homes.