Rising case numbers in the Golden Horseshoe could cause a “spillover” of COVID-19 infections in Niagara, says the region’s top doctor.
Acting medical officer of health Mustafa Hirji suggests “more people interacting” across municipalities and a rising trend in community spread could impact the region’s ability to avoid a third wave amid the pandemic.
Of concern for Hirji is a change in key epidemiological numbers from neighbouring cities “well above” the ‘red’ level threshold from the province’s COVID-19 response framework, particularly Hamilton.
“So they’re becoming actually the number two spot in Ontario in terms of cases,” said Hirji.
“And of course, being right across our border, that’s a very big concern that’s where we’re going to see a spillover and an increase in cases here.”
Last week, Hamilton’s confirmed COVID-19 cases per 100,000 population reached 96.8, putting it second in that indicator among public health units in Golden Horseshoe.
The measure is one of the key metrics used by Ontario public health in considering a lockdown.
Hamilton is now on par with five other regions in a current lockdown: Thunder Bay, Lambton, Peel, Sudbury and Toronto.
“I think it’s notable that our entire neighborhood here, everybody is above that ‘red’ level threshold of cases at this point, and everybody has been trending upwards over the last little while to reach that,” Hirji said of the municipalities bordering Niagara.
Hirji says low case numbers in the region’s current outbreaks contrasted by increases in overall cases is pointing to a rise in community spread throughout Niagara.
Since the circumstance is more difficult to control and contact trace, Hirji believes keeping case numbers low over the next two months will be critical in avoiding a lockdown.
“That’s only going to happen if everybody really pulls together to once again have that resolve to stay home and limit our activities outside of the home to just those essential ones.”
Niagara reports 27 new COVID-19 cases on Monday
Niagara public health reported 27 new COVID-19 cases on Monday.
The region added just a single new variant case and has 201 total variant cases as of March 22.
Six have been identified as the B.1.1.7 variant. There are no confirmed cases for any of the other subtypes of the coronavirus.
Niagara’s active cases remained the same day over day at 342, with St. Catharines and Niagara Falls having the most at 71 and 65 cases, respectively.
Public health says there are 19 active outbreaks, including two health facilities, a retirement home and a long-term care home.
The region is reporting that close to 51,000 doses of COVID-19 vaccines have administered as of Monday, with Niagara Health giving out just over 34,000 doses and public health another 17,000.
Public health says 59 per cent of residents over the age of 80 have received at least one dose of either the Pfizer or Moderna vaccine. About 29 per cent of the remaining 80-plus population have booked their first vaccination with public health while another 12 per cent have an appointment with a Niagara health hospital site.
So far, only seven per cent of people aged 75-79 have received a vaccine in Niagara while 66 percent have not yet been booked.