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

Hamilton’s medical officer of health says the city has seen a “swell” of COVID-19 cases in the last month, but not a “surge” amid spikes in some areas of the province.

Dr. Elizabeth Richardson said during a board of health meeting on Monday she was not aware of suggestions Ontario may be in a fifth wave of the pandemic following upticks which saw 1,000 new daily cases reported twice last week.

“Some areas experience waves at slightly different timing than others,” Richardson said.

“For example, if you go back a ways, Ottawa didn’t experience a second wave…they just kind of had the wavelets that continued on.”

Hamilton’s director of epidemiology, Michelle Baird, says the province has not characterized recent increases as a fifth wave.

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“There certainly are areas of the province where they are seeing concerning increases in cases,” Baird said.

“We are seeing a slight increase (of) cases here locally, but not to the same extent our peers are seeing.”

Since the last board of health meeting, the city’s average number of cases per day has moved from 15 to 20.

So far for the first five days of December, the city’s daily average has hit about 35 cases a day, 16 more than the 19 per day recorded for all 30 days of November.

Despite the increases, epidemiologist Erin Rodenburg told city councillors Hamilton remains in the post-peak phase of the fourth wave of COVID and activity levels have remained stable for several weeks.

“In addition to our cases remaining stable, both our numbers of hospitalizations and deaths have also been maintaining and are low,” Rodenburg said.

Windsor-Essex County Health Unit is one provincial entity hit by a rash of recent COVID cases precipitating a re-introduction of health measures as of Sunday.

The region’s top doc issued a letter of instruction on the weekend calling for reduced gathering limits and encouraged work-from-home measures.

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“Given the disproportionate burden of COVID-19 on the region of Windsor-Essex … I am issuing these instructions to control the spread of COVID-19,” Dr. Shanker Nesathurai, medical officer of health for Windsor-Essex, said in a statement.

The restrictions call for a maximum of 10 people in indoor social gatherings, with exceptions for weddings and funerals, and a maximum of 25 people if the gathering is held outdoors.

An IC/ES report on Nov. 21 showed the county was second only to the Timiskaming Health Unit in the number of cases returning positive for COVID from Ontario labs.

The Windsor-Essex percent positivity rate was at 7.12 per cent, more than double the reported provincial average at the time which was 2.91 per cent.

Hamilton checked in at just 2.21 per cent in that analysis.

Hamilton COVID cases to remain low with more vaccinations and no new variant

Public health is anticipating that the city’s cases and hospitalizations will remain low through to the end of January assuming no new variant emerges, current vaccinations rates remain consistent, and COVID health measures are maintained.

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Experts laid out the latest Scarsin forecasting on Monday which is suggesting only about 1,100 new cases and 44 hospitalizations between now and Jan. 31, if measures like masking and social distancing are maintained.

An alternative scenario predicts more transmission with increased indoor activity and further “reopening” by the province equating to a potential spike to 1,804 by the end of January with 68 hospitalizations and potentially seven deaths.

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“Keep in mind that both of these scenarios include the anticipated benefits of vaccinating children five to 11, ” epidemiologist Ruth Sanderson told city councillors.

“So the difference between these two scenarios, which is just related to public health measures, is 675 cases between now and the end of January.”

Hamilton Public Health

Hamilton public health expects the daily COVID-19 case rate to average around 45 new infections per day between Dec. 6, 2021 and the end of January 2022.

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Sanderson said the worst case projection sees the daily case rate reaching 95 per day by the end of January, while the best case could be 20 or lower on average.

“We saw that cases will primarily be in the younger age groups and a third of those under 19,” Sanderson said.

“Unfortunately, nearly two thirds of hospital admissions will be in those 20 to 59, and another 21 per cent will be in those 60 to 79.”

Hamilton reports 101 new COVID-19 cases over the weekend

Public health reported 101 new COVID-19 cases in Hamilton over the weekend which bumped up the average number of daily cases seen over the past seven days from 28 reported on Friday to 30 as of Dec. 6.

Active cases dropped over the weekend to 231 from Friday’s reported 280.

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More than 73 per cent of active cases are in people under the age of 50, while 36 per cent are under 30.

The city revealed three new outbreaks on the weekend at a pair of businesses and a group home. Public health closed two other surges that started in late November at an elementary school and a workplace.

As of Monday morning there were 14 reported outbreaks involving 40 total cases in the city. Six of those are with local schools tied to 19 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 73 cases, with 47 among students.

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Hospitals in Hamilton are reporting a combined 19 COVID-19 patients as of Monday, four more than the 15 reported on Friday.

Both St. Joe’s and Hamilton Health Sciences are averaging less than one new hospital admission each day.

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Over 83.6% of eligible Hamiltonians 12-plus fully vaccinated

Hamilton’s health partners administered close to 7,800 vaccine doses over the weekend, with Friday recording the largest intake — 3,316 shots.

The city has seen about a 40-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 aged five through 11.

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As of Sunday, 83.6 per cent of eligible Hamiltonians over the age of 12 have been fully vaccinated while 86.4 per cent have had at least a single dose. The city is still behind the provincial average which has 87.3 per cent fully vaccinated, while 90 per cent have had at least one vaccine dose.

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Residents aged 70 to 84 have reached the Ministry of Health’s target of 90 per cent first and second dose coverage.

Hamiltonians aged 25 to 29 represent the lowest vaccination rates of those eligible in the community at just over 73.7 per cent fully vaccinated.

© 2021 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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