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COVID-19: Forecast for Hamilton suggests latest wave more likely to ‘severely’ affect those 60-plus

Hamilton public health revealed the city's latest COVID modelling for the first part of 2022. A dire scenario suggest the city could see another 200-plus patients in ICU's by late February. Global News

Hamilton public health is suggesting that the current wave of the COVID-19 pandemic could have a significant effect on the city’s over-60 population if current trends continue.

Health officials revealed the latest Scarsin forecasting on Monday during a board of health meeting and projected in one scenario that the city’s residents aged 60-plus could represent 49 per cent of all hospitalizations in the next month and a half.

“Severe outcomes will disproportionately occur more among those aged 60 years and over,” epidemiologist Ruth Sanderson told city councillors.

Read more: Omicron expected to fuel workplace ‘absenteeism’ in January as cases surge

Sanderson said the more severe modelling could produce about 1,046 hospitalizations in the city’s hospital networks between now and Feb. 28 with 221 potential intensive care (ICU) admissions.

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Of the possible 119 deaths, according to the modelling, people over 60 could figure in about a hundred of those.

“Forty-nine per cent of new hospital admissions will be in Hamiltonians 60 and older,” said Sanderson.

“Eighty-six percent of deaths are predicated to be in 60 and over,”

A “better” case scenario of the Scarsin prediction is projecting only about 84 ICU admissions in the same time period through 760 hospitalizations.

The latter base assumes current reopening dates for public schools will be in mid-January, mask protocols will continued to be adhered to, low community and workplace mobility due to on-going provincial restrictions and hitting 50 and 70 per cent first-dose vaccination markers for those 5 to 11 and over-18, respectively.

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Another factor in the prognostication are recent international studies suggesting individuals contracting the variant maybe 40 to 50 per cent less likely to go to a hospital emergency department.

Scarsin suggests hospitalizations could range between three and eight per day over the next 49 days.

Between Dec. 1 and Jan. 7, the city saw 117 hospitalizations for a rate of just under 3 per day. There were 25 ICU admissions and eight COVID-related deaths.

Public health said unvaccinated residents accounted for the most admissions with a rate of about 33 per 100,000 population since the start of the Omicron wave in mid-July.

Read more: City of Toronto reports absences among emergency services, ambulance service delays

Case rates in the city over the next month and half are expected to be modest at best in light of the province’s rollback of PCR testing eligibility.

With that, the city is projecting just under 41,000 cases in the next 49 days, with about 67 per cent of those between 20 and 59 contracting the affliction.

During a media update, Hamilton’s medical officer of health Dr. Elizabeth Richardson said she didn’t know what kind of “multiplier” might be applicable to Hamilton in reflecting the actual number of cases the city likely has.

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We knew even before this that the proportion of total COVID 19 cases that were being found through testing was probably … one in five … one in seven range,” Richardson said.

“Now it’s certainly much lower than that as we’ve moved forward and seen that there really aren’t a lot of other viruses that are circulating.”

Hamilton's vaccination campaign slowing with ages 5 to 11

Hamilton’s vaccine campaign with eligible under age 11 is holding at around 40 per cent as of the weekend, and it’s slowing according to city officials.

The city’s program manager said close to 17,000 doses have made it into the arms of those age 5 to 11 as of Jan. 6, representing about 39 per cent of that group.

About 9,000 of those doses came In the first two weeks of eligibility for the shots as of Nov. 25 equating to about 650 per day.

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“Since then, first dose administration has slowed and has reached approximately 200 doses per day,” Melissa Biksa told councillors.

As of Sunday, Public Health Canada showed 39 per cent of kids between the ages of five and 11 have received a first dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine, which the agency approved for that age group last November.

Read more: Americans should avoid travel to Canada amid COVID surge, U.S. CDC says

In Ontario, nearly 45 per cent of children up to age 11 have received their first dose while the highest vaccination rate, at 67 per cent, is in Newfoundland and Labrador.

Dr. Richardson says the city has been looking into why there’s been somewhat of a stall and suggested it’s “multifactorial” with the demo potentially having limited access and lack of information.

“When we look at a vaccine rate this low, though, it is a more broader hesitancy piece that we are seeing in terms of people deciding to come forward,” Richardson said.

“So very much … working with all of our health system partners, all of the community partners to make sure there’s information available to people to talk through issues.”

In order to reach the province’s ‘last mile” strategy of getting over 90 per cent vaccinated with two shots 12-plus, about 6,000 Hamiltonians still need their first shot while just under 20,000 need to get a second dose.

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Since Dec. 23, the boosters doses have been driving throughput accounting for over 90 per cent of daily doses administered.

Hamilton’s health partners administered over 21,000 vaccine doses on the weekend with Friday having the highest intake of just over 8,300 shots.

Close to 56,000 doses have been administered over the past seven days, which is up from the estimated 45,000 given out the seven days before.

As of Jan. 10, the city has put about 1.1 million COVID vaccine doses into arms with about 450,000 second visits and 208,000 third shots.

Read more: Opposition parties push for emergency health committee meeting amid Omicron surge

Over 80 per cent of eligible Hamiltonians aged five and up have had a pair of doses while 85.3 per cent have gotten at least one shot.

About 86.4 per cent of residents aged 12-plus have had al least two shots, while about 89 per cent have had a first dose.

The city is still behind the provincial average, which has 88.4 per cent of those 12-plus with two doses and 91.1 per cent with a single dose. Third dose immunization is at 36.9 per cent.

More than 91 per cent of those aged 60-plus in the city have had two shots, while more than 50 per cent have had a booster.

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Excluding kids aged five to 11, Hamiltonians in the 18-to-24 age group represent the lowest vaccination rates of those eligible in the community at just over 79 per cent having had a pair of doses.

The city is set to slow down vaccinations at it’s Lime-Ridge clinic mid-month. As of Jan. 17, the city will knock down the current two shifts a day to just one allocating the resources to the mobile stream of their fourth dose campaign.

Retirement homes, long-term care homes and high-risk settings are the target of the moving clinics.

The city will also begin a ramp-up of school-based vaccination clinics as well.

74 institutional COVID-19 outbreaks in Hamilton, 30 in facilities with seniors

Hamilton’s top doc characterized “most” of the city’s 30 ongoing COVID outbreaks at facilities with seniors as “small” with little in the way of severe illness among residents.

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As the weekend, the total number of cases hit just over 300 in Hamilton-area homes with long-term care facilities taking on the brunt of new recorded cases – 108 between Friday and Sunday.

However, unlike earlier incarnations of surges in seniors facilities, a large part of the total case numbers are affecting workers. About half of the total reported cases are with staff.

“Unfortunately, there are some instances where we do see these larger numbers of cases, oftentimes they’ve come in and managed to spread … through things … like break rooms, … sharing rides …and that sort of thing,” Richardson said.

“But fortunately, in both cases, the the outbreaks are small and generally, so far, severity has not been so bad.”

As of Jan. 9, Hamilton had 13 retirement homes in an outbreak accounting for 83 cases, 42 employees.

Long-term care homes (LTCH) have 222 of the reported infections, 105 with staff.

Two nursing homes, the Wellington on the Mountain and Heritage Green in Stoney Creek, have the most case numbers of the care facilities in outbreaks with 58 and 50.

Staff cases represent almost half of those at 25 and 20, respectively.

Read more: Ontario reports 2,467 people with COVID in hospital, 9,706 new cases

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Hospitals represent the second biggest group carrying outbreak cases with 169 in 16 Hamilton-area facilities.

St. Joe’s has eight of the surges tied to 70 cases, while Hamilton Health Sciences (HHS) also has eight outbreaks affecting 99 people.

Over 9,000 active cases were reported by the city on Monday, but public health notes the number is underestimated due to the province’s recent change in its testing strategy.

Close to 45 per cent of those cases are people aged between 20 and 39.

Hamilton’s seven-day case average has dropped a bit week over week from 588 per day last Friday to 568 as of Jan 10.

Combined, Hamilton’s hospital network has 256 COVID patients, up eight from Friday. There are 30 people in ICUs as of Monday, down three from the start of the weekend.

Read more: Confused about masking up against Omicron? Here’s a guide

There are close to 750 health-care workers total between St. Joe’s and Hamilton Health Sciences that are now isolating due to a potential COVID exposure.

The city’s positivity rate — representing the number of tests returning from Ontario labs as positive — is at 31.2 per cent as of Friday.

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One more COVID-related death was recorded for Monday, a person in their 70’s, according to city data.

– with files from the Canadian Press.

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