Hamilton’s medical officer of health says Ontario’s decision to incrementally ease public health measures every three weeks amid a COVID-19 wave fueled by the highly-contagious Omicron variant is a “good thing.”
In a pandemic update on Monday, Dr. Elizabeth Richardson said the 21-day increments should give provincial and public health units adequate time to observe shifts in the population’s mobility and its effects on key virus infection data.
“I think that’s a good period of time. It allows some time to see what the shifts in … the regulations bring as they as move through them,” said Richardson.
“As we return to learning over this last little while, it does give us some time to see what the impacts have been from that change as well as we go forward.”
On Jan. 31, the province will move into the next phase of a rollback of public health measures characterized as “cautious and gradual” by Premier Doug Ford earlier in the month.
Social gatherings are set to be increased to 10 people indoors and 25 people outdoors while businesses, attractions and larger events will be able to operate at 50-per cent capacity.
For Hamilton it means arenas, recreation centres, gyms, indoor swimming pools and some museums will open next week where staff is available.
The Dundurn National Historic Site, Hamilton Military Museum and Museum of Steam and Technology will reopen on Feb. 1, but all other city-run museums will stay closed.
Emergency Operations Centre chief Jason Throne revealed the closures are due to staffers redeployed to the city’s vaccination campaign.
“All other museums will remain closed at this time, given the restrictions around physical distancing, as well as some construction activities that are going on,” Thorne said
“We still continue to have some of our museum staff redeployed to support our vaccine clinics.”
City services are expected to largely remain unchanged come Monday with City Hall open for most services, except for the business centre.
Most municipal service centres will remain closed including the licensing and water service counter on Wentworth.
Here’s a list of settings in which capacity limits will move to 50 per cent as of 12:01 a.m. on Jan. 31:
- Restaurants, bars and other food or drink establishments without dance facilities.
- Retailers (including grocery stores and pharmacies)
- Shopping malls.
- Areas of sports and recreational fitness facilities, including gyms.
- Meeting and event spaces.
- Recreational amenities and amusement parks, including water parks.
- Museums, galleries, aquariums, zoos and similar attractions.
- Casinos, bingo halls and other gaming establishments.
- Religious services, rites, or ceremonies.
Proof of vaccination — the version with the scannable QR code — and other requirements such as masking will continue to apply, according to the province.
Two more windows for easing public health measures are set for Feb. 21 and March 14.
It’s expected the next step will increase social gatherings to 25 people indoors, 100 people outdoors.
Capacity limits in indoor public settings, where proof of vaccination is required, will also be eased.
Spectator capacity at sporting events, concert venues and theatres will remain at 50-per cent capacity.
Richardson says advancing to the forthcoming planned stages will be contingent on key COVID indicators.
“Monitoring hospitalizations, the ICU admissions, the fatalities ultimately will be very key as we go forward to see if we’re ready to make that step through the framework that they’ve outlined,” the MOH said.
Public health records four more COVID-related deaths in Hamilton
Hamilton public health added four more COVID-related deaths to move the city’s two-year pandemic total to 465.
The city has been recording an average of about two deaths per day since Jan. 14.
So far the city has posted 40 COVID-related deaths to its online dashboard since the start of January.
Hamilton hospitals experienced a slight drop day over day with COVID patients moving from 280 reported Monday to 255 as of Jan. 25. There are 34 combined people with COVID in intensive care (ICUs).
Hamilton Health Sciences (HHS) facilities have the most ongoing cases, 188 with 24 in ICUs.
Ontario reported 4,008 people in hospital with COVID on Tuesday, with 626 in ICUs.
Both the city’s hospitals combined have just over 500 staffers isolating for COVID.
Five hospital outbreaks were declared day over day, leaving just nine ongoing surges tied to 86 combined cases, 64 of which involve patients.
The number of overall institutional COVID-19 outbreaks in Hamilton continues to decline, moving to 71 as of Tuesday connected to about 1,400 total cases.
Just under 900 people are a part of 34 surges in homes containing seniors as of Monday.
Close to 700 cases are at 22 long-term care homes (LTCH) and 184 in 12 retirement homes.
Over half of the combined 874 cases in the homes are with health-care workers, with about 300 in LTCHs.
The city’s largest outbreak is at the Heritage Green Nursing home, which has 95 cases as of Jan. 24 with 55 tied to residents.