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Proof of vaccination for fans going to Grey Cup provides ‘sigh of relief’ for Hamilton’s top doc

Hamilton Tiger-Cats fans arrive for game at Tim Hortons Field. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Aaron Lynett

With football fans set to converge at Tim Horton’s Field for the Grey Cup final on the weekend, Hamilton’s medical officer of health says a proof of vaccination policy at the venue is a “sigh of relief” in avoiding a potential “superspreader event.”

Dr. Elizabeth Richardson says the province’s vaccine certificate initiative plays a significant part with occasions like Sunday’s big game and is quite pleased the province will not be lifting the program anytime soon.

“For this kind of event, it does give me a sigh of relief,” Richardson told 900 CHML’s Good Morning Hamilton.

Read more: Hamilton public health seeing a ‘swell’ of COVID-19 cases in recent weeks

“I’m sure it gives many of your listeners a sigh of relief to know that they’re participating and those around them are vaccinated.”

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Aside from the game, Canadian Football League-sponsored events during Grey Cup week are requiring valid proof of vaccination in addition to compliance with health and safety protocols in order to attend venues.

Health officials are hoping to avoid a large episode like the city’s most notable superspreader occurrence at SPINCO’s downtown Hamilton location last fall, which saw over 60 cases tied to the gym.

However, the MOH says breakthrough cases are still possible despite vaccinations and that patrons need to be smart about wearing masks when not eating or drinking.

“That’s why we need both of those things, we need vaccinations and need to continue to follow public health measures even when we’re in those crowds that are fully vaccinated,” said Richardson.

The director of Ontario’s COVID-19 Science Advisory Table concurs with Hamilton’s MOH in terms of Sunday’s game being a low-risk scenario since it’s largely an outdoor event.

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Read more: Ontario science table to issue recommendations on rapid COVID-19 tests

“Outdoors is not a problem. That’s fine if it’s outdoors,” Juni told 900 CHML’s Bill Kelly Show

However, the top doc is suggesting that fans might want to forget about the popcorn and get a little better with their masking.

“Always see too many people, you know, wearing the mask onto their chin or onto their nose…’oh yeah, I just cover my mouth and that’s good enough.’ No, it’s not,” said Juni.

“Remember, this transmission happens mainly airborne, meaning the air you breathe out of your nose. If you’re infected and don’t know yet, it’s the air that you share with your friend or colleague.”

'We're in an extension of the fourth wave'

During a board of health meeting on Monday, Richardson was asked to comment on suggestions Ontario may be in a fifth wave of the pandemic following upticks which saw 1,000 new daily cases reported twice last week.

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The MOH told Global News Ontario’s top health officials characterizing the current swell as a “continuation” of the fourth wave is something she also sees.

“We’re in an extension of the fourth wave,” Richardson said.

“We never really came down right to low levels between the fourth wave as we’ve seen it so far and where we are now.”

Read more: Do we need booster shots to fight Omicron? Experts divided

Several public health units reintroduced restrictions over the past two weeks as Ontario reported its highest daily COVID-19 case count since the beginning of September.

Sudbury and District, Kingston, and Windsor-Essex are regions that re-introduced COVID health measures in recent days amid rising case rates.

With the holidays coming, Richardson recommends being more “thoughtful” of others and “mindful” of contacts being made in the weeks ahead.

“If you’re sick, please stay home,” said Richardson.

“We do know there’s other viruses circulating and so…go out and get tested, see what it is that you may have.”

20 per cent of Hamilton's kids aged 5 to 11 have had a COVID vaccine dose

Richardson says she’s “pleased” with the city’s current vaccination rate among children since bookings started for the demographic in late November.

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Public health estimates about 21 per cent of the city’s estimated 42,000 children aged 5 to 11 have received at least one dose of a vaccine.

“Of course, we’re welcoming anybody who is in their family who may not have been vaccinated to come on in with them,” said Richardson.

Close to 2,600 vaccine doses were administered day over day to bring the city’s eligible population aged 5-plus with two shots up to 78.5 per cent as of Tuesday.

The city has seen about a 18-per cent increase in doses administered over the past seven days compared to the previous seven, largely due to a COVID-19 vaccine becoming available to kids.

Read more: Merck to make its COVID-19 antiviral pill in Canada, company announces

As of Sunday, 85.1 per cent of eligible Hamiltonians over the age of 12 have been fully vaccinated while 87.8 per cent have had at least a single dose. The city is still behind the provincial average which has 87.4 per cent fully vaccinated, while 90 per cent have had at least one vaccine dose.

Hamilton’s 60-plus population has reached the Ministry of Health’s target of 90 per cent first and second dose coverage. Ages 18 to 24 represent the lowest vaccination rates with just over 77 per cent fully vaccinated as of Tuesday.

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Hamilton reports 54 new COVID-19 cases, 1 death

Public health reported 54 new COVID-19 cases in Hamilton on Wednesday which bumped up the average number of daily cases seen over the past seven days to 34 from the the 30 reported on Tuesday.

The city has also seen a couple of it’s case monitoring indicators rise day over day including the weekly percent positivity rate – representing the number of COVID tests coming back positive from labs – moving from 2.2 per cent to 2.7 percent week over week as of Dec. 8.

That number is still below the provincial average of 3.3 per cent.

The reproduction number — which indicates spread of the virus within the community — has also moved up week over week from 1.06 to 1.26.

Active cases increased day over day to 252 from the 229 reported on Dec. 7.

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Read more: Ontario reports 1,009 new COVID-19 cases, 8 more deaths

More than 75 per cent of active cases are in people under the age of 50, while 40 per cent are under 30.

As of Wednesday morning there were 16 reported outbreaks involving 47 total cases in the city. Seven are in local schools tied to 21 cases.

City health officials say schools have been producing about five cases per day since late October, with the largest incidences among those aged 5 to 11.

In the last 14 days, both public boards have reported 87 cases, with 57 among students.

The number of COVID-19 patients in Hamilton Hospitals has essentially remained flat week over week with 13 patients combined at St. Joe’s and Hamilton Health Sciences (HHS) as of Dec. 8. There were 15 reported on Dec. 1.

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COVID-19: Omicron cases continue to be reported across Canada – Dec 4, 2021

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