A biomedical engineering professor says recent spikes in COVID-19 cases across Ontario and Canada could increase the chance of the country spawning it’s own variant, much like what has happened in the U.K., South Africa and Brazil.
Dr. Omar Khan from the University of Toronto says it would be “terrible” to be responsible for a new mutation, but it is possible with Canada averaging over 8,000 cases a day, and Ontario posting a record one day high on Thursday of 4,736.
“The problem is, with so many people infected, the chance of creating a new variant just goes up,” said Khan.
Hamilton reported the discovery of the B.1.351 variant first detected in South Africa on Thursday. On Wednesday, public health revealed the city’s first two cases of the P.1 variant (first detected in Brazil.)
Along with the B.1.1.7 variant (first detected in the U.K.) already established and spreading across the city in recent weeks, there have now been 1,490 positively screened cases with a variant. Twenty-five of the city’s 38 active outbreaks involve a variant, and 10 of 13 workplace outbreaks are reporting at least one of the three mutations.
Khan characterized the country’s predicament as a ‘”bad situation” with rising cases and it’s most effective tool to fight the spread, vaccines, in such short supply.
“The challenge is when we don’t have vaccines as individuals, what is the only other thing we can do? It’s the physical measures. It’s the masks and the distancing,” said Khan.
Khan says it takes about a month after a single dose of a vaccine to build up “a good level of protection” against severe disease, with the second dose helping the immune system’s memory of the first shot.
The specialist goes on to say that another challenge is the efficacy of the vaccines to prevent spread of COVID-19, which still is the subject of ongoing research.
“There’s ongoing clinical trials to try to determine if your vaccine, which is going to protect you against severe disease, also prevents you from spreading the virus,” said Khan.
“There’s that window where things can still happen and there’s not much clarity on that.”
Hamilton clinics have administered 142,296 COVID-19 vaccines as of Wednesday, with close to 61,000 administered through the fixed site at Hamilton Health Sciences.
The clinic at St. Joe’s has now administered about 32,000 doses, 22,000 of which have been through mobile clinics, 15,000 with the First Ontario site, 7,000 at pharmacies, and around 5,000 at primary care clinics.
Hamilton reports 156 new COVID-19 cases, 4 new deaths
A day after reporting over 200 COVID-19 cases, the city revealed just over 150 (156) new cases on Thursday.
Public health also recorded four more deaths tied to residents that had COVID-19. The deceased include two people in their 80s, one in their 70s and another in their 50s.
One death is connected with an outbreak at the Green Mountain Lodging Home.
Hamilton has had 341 total virus-related deaths since the pandemic began in 2020. Over 97.6 per cent of the city’s deaths have been people over the age of 60.
There was a drop in active cases day over day by 32 to 1,192.
The city’s seven-day average of new cases is up again on Thursday to 144.
The weekly case rate is at 166 per 100,000 people as of Wednesday.
Public health reported three new outbreaks on April 15 at two work places and a seniors home.
The outbreak at ArcelorMittal Dofasco (#1 MRA) is the largest with seven cases including a known variant.
The surges at the City of Hamilton’s roads department and the Macassa Lodge seniors home involve two case each.
Ten outbreaks were declared over on Wednesday at three schools, three workplaces, a shelter, a retirement home, a group home, and a daycare.
The largest of the outbreaks were at École élémentaire Pavillon de la jeunesse on the Mountain, which had 14 cases over 23 days, and Mission Services of Hamilton which had 13 cases with 11 from residents.
There are now 13 outbreaks involving 119 cases at workplaces in the city. The largest at Connon Nurseries in Waterdown, which now has 30 coronavirus cases.
Eight Hamilton schools are in outbreaks with the Hamilton Wentworth District School Board (HWDSB) accounting for four, the Catholic board (HWCDSB) with three and one in a non-public school, Bellstone Christian School on Mount Hope.
The city’s 38 current outbreaks account for just over 270 coronavirus cases.
There have now been 14,738 total coronavirus cases locally since the pandemic began last year.
As of April 15, only about 19 per cent of the Hamilton’s active COVID-19 cases are among those aged 60 or over. More than 66 per cent of cases are in people aged 50 and under while residents under 30 represent 40 per cent of ongoing cases.