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Hamilton reports 152 new COVID-19 cases, specialist says workplaces still susceptible to infections

A GTA infectious disease specialist believes it may two to four weeks with current stay-at-home orders before the province sees the recent influx of COVID-19 intensive care cases drop to a “more positive situation.”

Dr. Neil Rau, an assistant professor in the University of Toronto School of Medicine who frequents a number of hospitals in the GTHA, told Global News there were still a significant number of patients being transferred to intensive care units (ICU) from region to region last week but says a recent decline in test positivity numbers is showing some promise.

“There is still considerable strain and we still had stories of people being transferred long distances to Ottawa or Thunder Bay for ICU care,” said Rau.

Read more: Ontario reports more than 3,400 new COVID-19 cases, 16 deaths

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Just over 1,900 people are currently hospitalized with COVID-19, according to the province. Close to 900 patients are in intensive care units and about 600 on ventilators as of May 3.

As of Monday, Hamilton hospitals have 152 COVID-19 patients with 113 at Hamilton Health Sciences (HHS) facilities and 39 at St. Joe’s.

The HHS hospitalizations have been complicated by four outbreaks at Hamilton General’s 4 West and 5 South units and surges at the Juravinski’s F3 and F4 units.

The outbreaks involve 35 total cases, including 27 patients.

Staff said 59 COVID-19 patients were transferred into an HHS hospital last week.

Although test positivity in Ontario was up on Monday to 9.7 per cent, the figure is lower than last week when it was averaging around 10.9 per cent.

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In Hamilton, the number went up to 12.2 per cent after dropping for two straight days over the weekend to 9.1 per cent.

The province saw new cases stay below 4,000 for the ninth straight day, however. There were still over 3,400 new cases on Monday with four areas in the GTA reporting more than half of them.

Rau says population density and large congregate work settings are what make cities like Toronto susceptible to more cases and hospitalizations.

“We know that in the Greater Toronto Area, it’s people who work in so-called congregate settings, people who work in an enclosed space, in a climate where you can’t open windows and get those outdoor air flows coming through,” said Rau.

Read more: India’s COVID-19 cases near 20 million as experts urge national lockdown

Manitoba epidemiologist Cynthia Carr believes case counts appear to be getting better across most regions in Canada but says the current tragedy with hospitalizations in India shows the power of the virus when people let their guard down.

India reported more than 300,000 new coronavirus infections for a 12th straight day on Monday to take its overall number of cases to just shy of 20 million. India’s coronavirus cases may peak between May 3 and 5.

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Carr says initially the country had success managing spread among its 1.3 billion people, however, mixed messages tied to the COVID-19 vaccine program and the easing of restrictions with congregate gatherings created massive spikes in cases.

“It wasn’t that the government said, ‘Don’t get vaccinated,’ but people felt safe and felt they didn’t need to. So all kinds of layers of protection were kind of dispersed,” said Carr.

As of last week, over 11 million vaccine shots had been given out in Canada. Ontario has administered just over five million of them.

Over 189,000 COVID-19 vaccine doses have been administered in Hamilton with the bulk of the shots – 68,000 – coming from the Hamilton Health Sciences (HHS) clinic.

About 34 per cent of the city’s eligible population over 18 have received at least one dose.

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Hamilton reports 152 new COVID-19 cases, 17 workplace outbreaks

Hamilton reported 152 new COVID-19 infections on Monday and 1,664 active cases.

Public health recorded a pair of new outbreaks on Sunday involving workers with the Hamilton Fire Department (two cases) and construction company the State Group Inc. (four cases).

Read more: Canada set to receive 2M Pfizer doses this week as company ramps up delivery

An outbreak at Pioneer Balloon Company – involving three cases among staffers – was declared over on May 2.

There are now 17 workplace outbreaks across the city involving 147 total cases.

The two largest involve Aryzta/Oakrun Farm Bakery on Fiddlers Green Road, reporting 39 cases, while National Steel Car’s outbreak involves 31 employees.

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Hamilton has 38 outbreaks involving 259 total cases as of Monday.

The city has not reported any virus-related deaths over the last three days. Hamilton has had 360 deaths since the pandemic began from 17,681 COVID-19 cases.

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