Limiting community spread could be key in avoiding Hamilton COVID-19 lockdown

NDP Leader Ryan Meili said the lack of action by Premier Scott Moe’s government to control COVID-19 has led the current situation in Regina.

Hamilton’s medical officer of health says community spread is becoming more of a concern as the city appears to sink deeper into “a third resurgence of COVID-19.”

In a pandemic update on Monday, Dr. Elizabeth Richardson said although the city has it’s share of current outbreaks, the case numbers from those surges are not as large as the previous two waves of the pandemic and that most new cases are coming from other sources.

“So it’s a bit of a trade off in those two different aspects of the outbreaks, but certainly the majority of our cases at this point are coming from the community broadly,” said Richardson.

Read more: Ontario reports nearly 1,700 new COVID-19 cases, 3 deaths

“So these are still household contacts, often within the community, but they tend to be coming from there.”

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The city’s top doctor says the challenge with community spread is contact tracing since those infected are not confined to an institution.

“So you’ll see us again using asking our cases to contact their contacts and make sure they’re aware of what they need to do, as well as us using letters in places like schools and that sort of thing to communicate the information,” Richardson said.

Last week Hamilton’s confirmed COVID-19 cases per 100,000 population reached 96.8 putting it second among Golden Horseshoe public health units in that key indicator under the province’s reopening framework.

That puts the city on par with five other regions now in lockdown, Thunder Bay, Lambton, Peel, Sudbury and Toronto.

On Friday, Mayor Fred Eisenberger told Global News typically 100 per 100,000 typically is the “magic number” that’s been key in determining a drop into the ‘Grey-Lockdown’ level.

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However, Richardson says the emergence of vaccines has changed the indicators somewhat and that the severity of the disease, the death rate and the city’s ICU capacity have become a more critical part of determining where a region should be in the framework.

“We still see our largest number of cases coming from that 20 to 40 year age group and less so cases in that older age group, less so outbreaks that happen in long term care and retirement homes,” said Richardson.

The MOH wouldn’t characterize the city’s hospital ICU capacity as overwhelmed but did say the hospitals are concerned about “load balancing” transfers in the province’s out of region patient plan amid the pandemic.

Read more: 10% of eligible Hamiltonians have received a COVID-19 vaccine dose: public health

“This isn’t the time for Hamilton to be the spot where people can go because we need to look after people who are our own,” Richardson said.

The city recorded just 10 newly screened-positive variant cases as of Monday, putting the city’s total variant cases to 468.

Richardson says that number is also contributing to the city’s stay in ‘red’ since its lower per capita than most health units in the province.

“We’re behind the province on that one,’ said Richardson. “We’re in the low 30s, the province is up at 50 per cent.”

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Hamilton reports 93 new COVID-19 cases on Monday

Hamilton reported 93 new COVID-19 cases on Monday and a slight increase in active cases by 14 to put the city at 716 as of March 22.

There have now been 11,932 total coronavirus cases since the pandemic began last year and 300 virus-related deaths.

The city’s two hospitals have a combined 106 patients being treated for COVID-19, 87 at Hamilton Health Sciences (HHS) facilities and 19 at St. Joe’s.

There were no new outbreaks on Monday, and none declared over.

Read more: Canada now vaccinating over 100K per day. Here’s what it will take to hit September target

Hamilton has 32 outbreaks as of March 22, which includes 68 cases among five shelters and 114 cases at seven hospitals.

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About 39 per cent (321) of the city’s 825 new cases in the last 10 days involve people under the age of 29.

As of Sunday, close to 69,000 total COVID-19 vaccine doses have been administered in the city. About 41,000 through Hamilton Health Sciences fixed clinic, another 10,000 through St. Joe’s, and just over 18,000 through mobile clinics.

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