Hamilton

Hamilton's top health official worried about COVID-19 variant, won't call for move to 'orange'

Hamilton's medical officer of health says that while the number of outbreaks and COVID-19 cases in the city are declining from previous months, she remains "very concerned" about variants of the virus. 

There have been 176 outbreak-related deaths since Sept. 1, 2020, most linked to LTCH, retirement homes

Hamilton Public Health Services is reporting 37 new cases of COVID-19 and has seen more than 10,000 positive tests since March 2020. (Bobby Hristova/CBC)

Hamilton's medical officer of health says that while the number of outbreaks and COVID-19 cases in the city are decreasing from previous months, she remains "very concerned" about a variant of the virus. 

Dr. Elizabeth Richardson said that modelling shows variant B117, which originated in the U.K., will take over in Ontario by mid-March.

Because of the virus's increased ability to transmit, Richardson said there's been increased sensitivity when it comes to identifying close contacts. 

"If there's any doubt, you're a close contact," she said. "We're more conservative."

All household members of a close contact of a positive case are asked to stay home except for "essential reasons" for 14 days. And if a close contact of someone who tested positive develops symptoms, all of their own close contacts — not just their household members — will be directed to do the same until a negative test returns. 

"This is now done for every case," Richardson said.  

While Hamilton is categorized in the red zone of the province's colour-coded framework, Richardson said, its data suggests that it actually could be orange. 

The city's weekly rate of new cases per 100,000 people is at 39.4, which technically falls in the orange zone. 

But when asked during a board of health meeting on Friday if Richardson would be calling up the premier to ask for Hamilton to be moved into orange, she replied, "absolutely not." 

"Now is not the time to be progressing even further," she said. "All the things that we're doing right now, we need to do really well as...we project that this variant will become more prevalent."

She said moving through this framework would be a "slow, downward trend," and there would be a "quick, upward response" if problems arise, especially from the variant. Richardson said they'll monitor for "many weeks" before expecting to see any change. 

The reproduction number (which is the average number of people infected by a person with the virus) has grown and is at 0.95.

This number has clocked in below one for the last five weeks, Richardson said, but needs to go below 0.7 to reduce the spread of the B117 variant. 

Hamilton surpasses 10,000 COVID-19 cases

Hamilton Public Health Services is reporting 37 new cases of COVID-19 and has seen more than 10,000 positive tests since March 2020.

There are 290 active cases of COVID-19 in the city with no new death linked to the virus in the last 24 hours.

Since March, 277 people have died after contracting COVID-19.

There have been 10,002 cases (confirmed and probable) since the pandemic began and the total number of resolved cases stands at 9,286.

Overall occupancy rates for hospital beds are sitting at a high level, but Richardson said hospitals are seeing this as related to their usual practice. Hamilton hospitals are currently treating 42 COVID-19 patients. 

There are also 19 outbreaks in the city.

There have been 26,738 doses of vaccine administered (9,424 from the mobile clinic and 17,314 from the fixed site).

Social services outbreaks

There are three new outbreaks at the Missions Services Men's Centre, Wesley Urban Ministries Day Centre, and at the YWCA's Carole Anne's Place. 

The Mission Services outbreak, located at 325 James Street North, had one resident test positive. A statement from Missions Services says they have been relocated to the isolation centre. 

"Men's Services has identified to public health all staff, residents, and visitors who have been on site within the exposure time frame. The Shelter Health Network is arranging testing for all residents and staff. They have identified individuals with high risk exposure and are triaging their testing accordingly," read the statement.

"All client intakes into the shelter are paused until the outbreak is declared over, and all non-essential staff are working from home."

A resident at Carole Anne's also tested positive. The two people who have tested positive as linked to the Wesley location are staff members. 

The outbreak at I.H. Mission Services has grown from two to five people. Four patrons are now infected as well as one staff. 

Meanwhile, the outbreak at Canada Bread, which infected 44 people, is over. So is the outbreak at Imagineer's Early Learning Centre, where two staff tested positive.

176 outbreak deaths since Sept. 1 

There have been 219 outbreaks declared between Sept. 1, 2020 and Feb. 18, 2021, according to HPHS epidemiologist Stephanie Hughes.

There were 176 outbreak-related deaths since Sept. 1, and 141 of these were linked to those at long-term care and retirement homes. 

There were 10 outbreaks declared in long-term care homes and retirement homes in October, 16 in November, 21 in December, and 28 in January. 

Four have been declared in February so far.

Brant

The county of Brant, and Brantford, have 27 active cases according to data online. There were two new cases in the last 24 hours.

There have been 1,415 cases since March and 12 deaths. There's no one currently hospitalized with COVID-19.

A total of 1,376 cases have been marked as resolved.

There have been 5,217 vaccine doses administered.

Haldimand-Norfolk

Haldimand and Norfolk counties are reporting a total of 13 active cases of COVID-19 with one new case reported during the last 24 hours.

There have been 1,394 cases throughout the pandemic. Of those 1,337 are marked as recovered.

The local public health unit has linked the virus to 39 deaths.

There have been 3,235 vaccine doses administered.

Halton

The number of COVID-19 cases in Halton rose by 43, for a total of 9,181 cases (confirmed and probable) since March.

Data shows 244 of those cases are active.

Fourteen of the new cases were in Burlington, which has seen 2,366 cases of COVID-19 since the start of the pandemic. There are 36 active cases in the city.

A total of 189 people across the region have died after being infected with the virus, 49 of them in Burlington.

The region has seen 23,934 vaccine doses administered.

Niagara

Niagara is reporting 26 new cases of COVID-19. The region has seen 8,428 cases over the course of the pandemic, including 284 that are active.

There have been 365 deaths linked to the virus over the course of the pandemic, two more than yesterday.

Meanwhile, 7,779 cases are now marked as resolved.

A total of 8,875 vaccines doses have been administered.

Halton

The number of COVID-19 cases in Halton rose by 43 on Friday for a total of 9,181 so far.

Data indicates 244 of those cases are active and 8,748 are resolved.

Fourteen of the new cases were in Burlington, which has seen 2,366 cases of COVID-19 since the start of the pandemic. There are 36 active cases in the city. 

There have been 189 people who have died after being infected with the virus across the region, of which 49 were in Burlington

Six Nations

Six Nations of the Grand River has 35 active COVID-19 cases, according to the last update from Ohsweken Public Health.

There have been 249 cases reported over the course of the pandemic.

Three people have died and 211 cases are marked as resolved.

With files from Bobby Hristova

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