Health officials are characterizing Hamilton’s current COVID-19 activity as “high and stable” with the possibility of an uptick in infections among residents come the fall.
During the city’s Board of Health meeting on Wednesday, epidemiologist Ruth Sanderson told councillors the city has seen small increases in transmission since mid-June but hospitalizations tied to the affliction remain steady.
“Wastewater signals, COVID-19 hospitalizations and ICU admissions indicate that we are in a stable state overall,” Sanderson said.
In recent weeks, the seven-day average of hospitalizations has been above one new admission per day in the city, reaching as high as two new admissions on a few occasions in late July and early August.
Over the past two weeks, specifically, that average hit 1.9 on July 22, 1.7 on July 29, and 2.0 on Aug. 5.
“What we have not seen is a big increase in hospitalizations as we have seen in previous waves,” said Sanderson.
“It is important to keep in mind that this indicator does lag behind other indicators, such as cases per cent positivity and wastewater.”
Intensive care unit (ICU) admissions over the seventh wave have remained low, with numbers averaging slightly above zero between late June and mid-July.
Meanwhile, institutional outbreaks in the last two weeks have moved from 33 reported across the city in late July to 27 as of Wednesday.
The latest Scarsin forecasting for Hamilton is predicting more COVID activity in the fall due to waning immunity, increased transmission through potential new sub-variants, as well as close contact between residents spending more time indoors.
It suggests hospitals will experience 323 new COVID-related admissions between Aug. 10 and Dec. 31 with those aged 80 years and older accounting for about 42 per cent of that volume.
About 29 per cent of those experiencing some COVID hospital care will be between the ages of 60 and 79.
Recent changes in vaccine eligibility and availability are accounted for in the new estimate based on predicting vaccination uptake due to the expanded fourth dose eligibility for those 18 and older, and vaccines now available for younger children aged six months and over five years.
“However, this current forecast does not account for other potential future changes that may impact the forecast in the coming months,” Sanderson remarked.
“For example, the potential availability of newer vaccines adapted for occurrence of variants or Hamiltonians or potential increased use of personal protective measures such as masking.”
The city’s vaccination campaign has not moved much since public health’s last update in June.
First and second doses among Hamiltonians remain at 88 and 85 per cent of the population, respectively.
Third doses, or first boosters, have been administered to just over 55 per cent of the population aged 12 and older with fourth doses accounting for 15 per cent of the population 18-plus.
Manager of infectious disease Jordan Walker told councillors the city is expected to implement a fall booster campaign with local health partners and help manage a routine school immunization program.
It’s expected the province will have access to an Omicron-specific vaccine in the fall, but Walker hadn’t heard when it might be available for Hamiltonians.
“Unfortunately, we don’t know when in the fall we will get access to these vaccines, nor specifically which populations will be eligible in the initial phases of the rollout,” Walker said.