Amid the recent surge in COVID-19 cases across Ontario, Niagara Health’s hospital network has opted to suspend visitors to its facilities as of Tuesday.
The agency said the move to implement restrictions for visitors, support persons and essential care partners (ECP) is in an effort to reduce traffic and attempt to minimize spread of the surging Omicron variant.
Limited exceptions include some support persons and ECPs that are fully vaccinated and only permitted at the bedside of patients admitted for seven days or more.
“Proof of COVID-19 vaccination required in order for ECPs to enter the hospital,” Niagara health said in a statement.
Inpatients, outpatients and emergency care patients are the groups affected.
The only potential exceptions to vaccination rules will be support persons obtaining permission from administrators in cases involving end of life, children under 18, some disability cases, mental health occurrences and childbirth.
Niagara Health’s policy goes a step further than some hospital networks in neighbouring regions, which are still allowing fully-vaccinated ECPs and visitors.
Both of Hamilton’s city hospital systems, Hamilton Health Sciences (HHS) and St. Joe’s, are still allowing fully-vaccinated visitors, as is Burlington’s Joseph Brant Hospital.
Brantford Community Healthcare also has a general no-visitors policy in effect, with some exceptions for ECPs.
Niagara reports over 2,400 active COVID-19 cases
For the fourth day in a row, Niagara Public Health reported another all-time high in active COVID cases on Wednesday.
There are 2,441 unresolved cases as of Dec. 29 which have been accumulating since hitting a new high on Sunday, surpassing the region’s previous pandemic high of 1,579 from April 29.
The region also surpassed a high in its weekly seven-day rolling average of cases, 178.7 as of Wednesday, which tops a previous high of 168.7 reported on April 23.
Niagara Health has 70 COVID patients as of Wednesday with 12 in intensive care units (ICU). Twenty-seven of the patients are unvaccinated, while six are in acute care.
Public Health Ontario reported another day-over-day increase in hospital admissions by 270, equating to a total of 726 in hospital wards as of Wednesday.
Three more were admitted to ICUs in the last 24 hours, moving the total number of current acute care patients to 190.
The region has 22 reported outbreaks as of Wednesday with 14 at health-care facilities.
Three Niagara Health hospitals — Greater Niagara General Site, St. Catharines General and Port Colborne General — have ongoing on-site outbreaks while the HHS West Lincoln Memorial Hospital also has a surge in two wards and and ICU unit.
Close to 76% of eligible population vaccinated in Niagara Region vaccinated
Over 76 per cent of those eligible in Niagara for a COVID-19 vaccine have had a complete series of two shots as of Dec. 28, according to public health.
Just over 81 per cent of residents aged 12-plus have had at least one dose.
The city is still behind the provincial average, which has 88.1 per cent of those 12-plus fully vaccinated and 90.7 per cent with at least a single dose.
Excluding kids aged five to 11, those aged 18 to 29 represent the group with the lowest vaccination rates of those eligible in the community at just over 73 per cent fully vaccinated.