On the last day that city of Hamilton staff were to report their COVID-19 vaccination status in keeping with an approved council verification policy, only 95 per cent revealed their condition on Monday according to the emergency operations centre (EOC) director.
EOC boss Jason Thorne said of those who’ve come forward with the information, 92 per cent say they are fully vaccinated.
“All employees who have not submitted proof of both doses of their vaccine will enter into the city’s COVID-19 rapid testing program, which begins on Thursday of this week,” Thorne said in an update on Nov. 1.
“So staff in those cases must take their test from home and submit test results online every Monday and Thursday, regardless of their shift schedule or where their place of work may be.”
Late last week, the city warned residents of service disruptions amid five per cent of the city’s estimated 7,500 staff not reporting their status prior to the November deadline — approved by city council during a special meeting in late August.
City employees were originally supposed to reveal their status on Sept. 15 with those who did not have a shot having to participate in an education session and get a first dose by Sept. 30.
Exemptions exist for those not vaccinated who have a medical or human rights claim.
“As the city implements this next phase of the vaccination verification policy, we do anticipate that there is potential for some service disruptions related to employees who have not yet fully complied with this policy,” Thorne said.
The service most likely to be noticeably impacted amid expected staff disruptions is HSR bus service.
On Friday, the city warned riders of modified routes and schedules after Nov. 4 since up to 10 per cent of bus operators in Hamilton would be potentially out of compliance.
Maureen Cosyn Heath, the city’s director of transit, estimated 10 per cent represents about 70 to 90 drivers whose status remains unknown.
ATU Local 107 president Eric Tuck says he suspects that number will decline in the next few days. The union boss says part of the issue has been replacing drivers who retired during the pandemic.
“We haven’t been able to train operators as quickly and get them into the service. So that’s part of the shortage” Tuck told 900 CHML’s Good Morning Hamilton.
“As I said 90 percent on Friday, I’m sure we’re probably up around 95 percent. I’ve seen several operators coming in yesterday to pick up their test kits.”
Thorne hopes the number of compliant drivers will be much higher come Thursday.
“I do encourage customers to download the HSR Now app on their devices, which will provide up to date information and also to monitor our social media channels for any updates to service levels,” Thorne said.
Over 80% 12-plus fully vaccinated in Hamilton
On the weekend, Hamilton’s health partners put just under 2,200 vaccine doses in arms with Friday recording the largest intake at 984. That number is still short of the monthly average of daily doses administered through October, which checked in at 1,068.
Vaccinations were down about 28 per cent month-over-month compared with September’s daily average, which was 1,488, and week-to-week daily shots declined 6.91 per cent.
As of Sunday, 81.3 per cent of eligible Hamiltonians over 12 have been fully vaccinated while 85.2 per cent have had at least a single dose. The city is still behind the provincial average, which sees 84.5 per cent fully vaccinated and 89.4 with at least one vaccine dose.
There are 31 health regions in Ontario with a better vaccination rate than Hamilton.
Hamilton's weekly COVID-19 case rates remains steady
Hamilton’s daily COVID-19 case rate generally remained flat over the last three days with the seven-day average checking in at 14 as of Monday — one more than the rate reported on Friday.
The city’s active cases did drop over from the 131 reported on Friday to just 117 as of Monday. Over 40 per cent of Hamilton’s active cases are among those under 30.
The per cent positivity rate remains at 1.70 per cent, which is lower than the provincial average 1.8 per cent as of Sunday.
There are seven reported outbreaks tied to 37 total cases as of Sunday. The largest is at the Lean and Fit Elite gym in Ancaster with 13 cases — seven among staff and six among patrons.
Three outbreaks closed over the weekend at Limeridge Mall Cinnabon and at a pair of schools: Sir Wilfrid Laurier Elementary School and Living Hope Christian School.
COVID-19 hospitalizations saw little change Monday to Friday with the city’s two networks reporting a combined 29 patients again as of Monday.
There are two fewer intensive care (ICU) cases since Friday with just nine combined between the two hospital agencies.