During a public health update Tuesday afternoon, the city’s top doc says additional local restrictions are being actively considered due to “increasing pressure” on the city’s contact tracing with several suspected Omicron cases now under investigation.
“We are at an uncertain time in the pandemic with this new variant having emerged and spreading quickly,” Elizabeth Richardson said.
“It’s not getting the lead-time that we’ve had, for example with Delta, in understanding a little bit more from our partners around the world.”
Richardson said cases from three new outbreaks in the city are being treated as Omicron infections since at least one case in each has been confirmed as the variant.
“Two of those are related to social gatherings, an event at the West End pub and … at Homewood Suites Hamilton Room,” Richardson said.
“The third one is at St. Patrick Catholic Elementary School, and we’re going forward with getting verification of the Omicron cases … through whole-genome sequencing.”
The province’s chief medical officer acknowledged the accelerated emergence of the variant during a Tuesday briefing in which he revealed ongoing discussions with regional public health units over possible plans to stem the spread.
An uptick in COVID numbers in Ontario has reached concerning levels in a couple of regions – like Kingston and Windsor-Essex – which have reverted to stricter public health measures.
Dr. Kieran Moore, top doctor for the province, said long-term care and retirement homes as of this week will now have to implement protocols banning overnight absences and requiring fully immunized visitors to test negative for COVID upon entry.
When asked about the potential return of capacity restrictions for large public gatherings, like live sporting events, he said it is a topic of discussion.
“We’re reviewing all of our policy directions in light of Omicron but again they have to be proportionate, they have to be prudent, they have to be reasonable against the risk of Omicron,” he said.
The World Health Organization (WHO) has now confirmed the new variant to be in 77 countries across the world and data suggest even among fully vaccinated individuals, it’s infecting four to eight times more people than the Delta variant did.
“This could put significant strain on our health care system,” Richardson said.
“It does seem to be that it is holding up that severity is less in the vaccinated, so (we) very much want to underscore vaccination is still a very important part of this protection against Omnicom.”
She went on to say that residents should begin to carefully consider plans for holiday gatherings and potentially prioritize “properly positioned” masks and maintain physical distance.
“Start now with thinking about what your personal situation is for your family in terms of their risk of severe outcomes from this virus,” said Richardson
“Start thinking about what adjustments may need to be made, and we’ll come forward with any additional recommendations in the next few days.”
Hamilton’s 7-day COVID-19 case rate averaging 53 per day
Hamilton’s average number of daily COVID-19 cases over the last seven days is now up to similar numbers seen in early September, according to public health.
On Tuesday, officials reported a seven-day case rate of 53, up from the 48 reported on Monday. The last time the city saw a larger number was on Sept. 6 when Hamilton had a weekly case rate of 56.
Active cases are up for the seventh day in a row moving to 411 on Tuesday from 346. It’s the first time in almost three months the city has seen more than 400 active cases, reporting 406 on Sept. 9.
More than 75 per cent of active cases are in people under the age of 50, while 44 per cent of infected individuals are under the age of 30.
The city has 20 reported ongoing outbreaks as of Dec. 14 tied to 62 total cases. Nine of the surges are in schools – seven at elementary facilities and a pair at secondary outlets.
City health officials say schools have been producing about five cases per day since late October, with the largest incidences among those aged five to 11.
In the last 14 days, both public boards have reported 120 cases, with 107of them being among students.
Hospitals in Hamilton are reporting a combined 26 COVID-19 patients as of Tuesday, 12 more than the 14 reported on Friday.
Both St. Joe’s and Hamilton Health Sciences are averaging less than one new hospital admission each day.
Over 78% of eligible Hamiltonians fully vaccinated
Hamilton’s health partners administered close to 3,800 vaccine doses on Monday, a 65 per cent increase in shots compared to a week ago.
At least 19,450 doses have been administered over the past seven days which is up from the estimated 17,650 given out the seven days before.
As of Monday, 78.7 per cent of eligible Hamiltonians over the age of five have been fully vaccinated while 83.2 per cent have had at least a single dose.
Just over 85 per cent of residents aged 12-plus have had at least a pair of shots, while about 88 per cent have had one.
The city is still behind the provincial average which has 87.6 per cent fully vaccinated 12-plus, and 90.3 per cent with at least a single dose.
Those aged 60-plus in the city have reached the Ministry of Health’s target of 90 per cent first and second dose coverage.
Excluding newly eligible kids aged five to 11, Hamiltonians in the 25-29 age group represent the lowest vaccination rates of those eligible in the community at just over 77 per cent fully vaccinated.
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