COVID-19 came to Hamilton 6 months ago today — here's a look at the toll it has taken

Half a year has passed since public health reported the Hamilton's first case of COVID-19. Here's a look at some of the numbers we have on the virus.

How did Hamilton compare to neighbouring regions for cases, outbreaks and deaths?

Staff at Hamilton Health Sciences don personal protective equipment during the COVID-19 pandemic. (Hamilton Health Sciences)

This story is the first in a series that marks the 6-month anniversary of COVID-19 hitting Hamilton and will examine its impacts —past and future — on the city. 

Six months have passed since the day Hamiltonians learned COVID-19 had arrived in the city. On March 10, 2020, a radiation oncologist at the Juravinski Cancer Centre got official word she had tested positive for the virus. Then things happened in a rapid blur.

Within days, schools, shops, businesses and restaurants shuttered and remained so for months — until they slowly began opening their doors again.

Students and staff, who left schools with thoughts of an extended March break, are just returning this week and next — and only some of them have chosen to walk the halls.

Half a year since that first case, public health says 1,017 people are known to have had the virus in the city, with 87 active cases right now. 

Here's a look at the numbers that show the toll the virus has taken on the city and its residents, and — where possible — how the city fared relative to neighbouring cities and regions.

(Unless otherwise noted, numbers are as of publicly available data on Sept. 1)

Hamiltonians who died from the virus: 45

Canada confirmed its first case of the virus on January 20, and scientists continue to work around the world to study its unpredictable nature in search of a vaccine

The virus has taken the lives of 45 people in Hamilton, 25 in Halton, 64 in Niagara, and 120 in Waterloo.

Hamilton's first death came March 24, two weeks after its first case, when an 80-year-old resident of a nursing home died in hospital.

As of early September, across Ontario 2,811 people have died. The number of lives lost still slowly increases with each day.

Per 100,000 people, and using populations from the 2016 census, that's a rate of a provincial rate of 20.9.

Hamilton falls below at 8.38, and its surrounding areas include 4.56 for Halton; 14.29 for Niagara; and 22.42 for Waterloo. 

The number of COVID-19 patients hospitalized: 148

Health-care workers, unnerved by the virus and steeling themselves for ethical dilemmas, put themselves at risk to staff the front lines. At one point in early May, they accounted for almost a quarter of those with the virus

Hospital workers treated 14.8 per cent of the city's confirmed and probable cases.  

In Niagara 10.7 per cent of those known to be sick with the virus were hospitalized, working out to around 100 people. Three per cent of cases were admitted into the ICU.

In Waterloo 120 people have been admitted to hospital, and 60 were in the ICU. Hamilton Health Sciences and St. Joseph's have not revealed their ICU numbers. 

The highest number of COVID-19 patients treated at one time by Hamilton's hospitals: 36 and 39 

Unsure of when or whether the virus surge would arrive, the hospitals prepared for a surge in April in hopes they would have space for the onslaught. HHS readied 300 beds for COVID-19 patients, and St. Joseph's had 150 beds. 

But that surge has yet to come. 
The city of Hamilton had its first confirmed case of COVID-19 not related to travel a week after the city's first positive case. (Evan Aagaard/CBC)

Thirty six people at St. Joseph's, across May 21 and 22, was the highest number of patients with the virus ever admitted at one time. At Hamilton Health Sciences, 39 people was the most patients being treated at one time. 

The day with the most reported new cases: 61 cases on May 15

After that first report saying the virus had come to Hamilton, it took three weeks for confirmed and probable cases to go over the 100 mark. Then its pace slightly quickened; it took just short of two weeks later, until April 13 — the day after Easter Sunday — to reach 150 more.  

By then the city was mostly shut down, and the virus' ability to spread seemingly weakened. A month went by for those cases to double and reach over 500 on May 13.

But a couple of days later, new reports spiked with a devastating outbreak. 

The number of outbreaks in long-term care and retirement homes: 3 and 8

The Rosslyn Retirement Residence was evacuated on May 15 after an outbreak infected all but two of the 66 residents and 22 staff members. 

Sixteen people died, and their lives account for about a third of all COVID-19 deaths in Hamilton.

In all, the city says it saw three outbreaks in LTC homes and eight in retirement homes.

Those are below the numbers seen in Halton (20 in LTC and retirement homes and one in a hospital); Waterloo (38 and 4 in hospitals); and Niagara (37 outbreaks total.) Halton saw 12 people die from outbreaks and Waterloo saw 96 deaths. 

The day Hamilton hit 1,000 total cases: September 1

The Waterloo region struggled with their LTC home outbreaks and reached over 1,000 confirmed cases two days after Hamilton reached the 500 (confirmed and probable) mark on May 13. 

And it took Hamilton longer than the surrounding regions to get there. Halton had hit this number two weeks earlier, and Niagara reached 500 confirmed cases (which doesn't even include probable ones) by May 2.

Hamilton hit 1,000 total cases last week on September 1. 

The number of people who got the virus from an outbreak: 255

When the virus got into LTC and retirement homes across the province, it ravaged. 

As of Sept. 3, the province had 424 outbreaks in LTC homes, 190 in retirement homes, and 98 in hospitals. In Niagara, over 60 per cent of the total cases were associated with an outbreak.

In Hamilton, it remains the largest single reason for how people caught the virus. Here's the breakdown, as of Sept. 2 of how people in Hamilton got the virus. 

  • A quarter of all cases contracted the virus because they were associated with an outbreak. 
  • Eight per cent have direct travel history. 
  • 36 per cent caught the virus through close contact. 
  • 31 per cent were community acquired. 
  • One case was under investigation. 

The area with the highest rate per 100,000 people: Delta West with 65 positives

Delta West, the neighbourhood around the Rosslyn, the site of Hamilton's deadliest outbreak, has the highest rate of cases per 100,000 people. 

The next highest is downtown beside St. Joseph's, between Aberdeen Avenue and Hunter Street W, and Bay and James with 57 cases. 

Places hit the hardest, revealed by a  Social Planning and Research Council of Hamilton (SPRC) study, were home to more people of colour and more low-income residents. 

Here are some of their numbers from early August: 

  • Average cases of COVID-19 per 100,000: 136 
  • Average cases in the wealthier areas: 99
  • Average cases in areas with the most material deprivation: 179
  • Average cases in areas with a low rate of residents who identify with a racialized group: 81
  • Average cases in areas with the highest rate of residents who identify with a racialized group: 196

The study also showed job losses in Hamilton affected women, youth and part-time workers the most.

And while Hamilton doesn't have this figure readily available, Niagara, Halton, and Waterloo all report that more women also contracted the virus.

Hamilton's public health will report to the board of health with an analysis on COVID-19 numbers on Sept. 21. 

The number of jobs lost from February to May: 46,000 

To keep the virus's spread contained and prevent an unbelievable strain on the health-care system, the province ushered in a state of emergency, marked by cancellations of parades and drinking plans on St. Patrick's Day. 

As the pandemic raged on, Hamilton lost the most jobs —  almost 46,000 — compared to its surrounding regions from February to May, according to numbers from Ontario's financial accountability office.

Its report said 31,600 jobs were lost in commercial-reliant Niagara, and Mayor Jim Diodati said that 98 per cent of the 40,000 people who work in Niagara's battered tourism sector had been laid off. 

The report also said Waterloo lost 39,500 jobs. 

The age group with the most amount of cases: ages 20 to 29

People in their twenties — the age group that inspired the city at one point to turn to French bulldogs to communicate physical distancing — continue to account for 21 per cent of positive tests. 

Even younger people are continuing to get the virus, a trend that predates people heading back to class. The most common age in the last 10 days leading up to Sept. 1 was 10-19. In the last 10 days, it has been ages 20-29, tied with 30-29.

This is similar to Niagara, whose age group with the highest number of cases is 20 to 39, followed by those 40 to 59. 

Halton cases have trended older, with 33.7 per cent of people with the virus aged 40 to 59, and 20 - 39 making up over 28 per cent. 

A sign thanking frontline workers sits in the front lawn of a Herkimer Street building on April 19, 2020. (Dan Taekema/CBC)

The number of people charged under the physical distancing bylaws: 135

Ignoring the city's instructions to keep apart meant a $500 fine for 135 people. The city said it doled out that many charges of its two physical distancing bylaws (the new one being brought in after the first ended with the province's state of emergency.) 

The new one saw two people charged for holding house parties. 

Here's how all 135 charges broke down over the past months:

  • Not maintaining a distance of at least 2 metres from another person: 24
  • A proprietor failing to ensure physical distancing in public space: 1
  • Attending/using a closed city of Hamilton or HRCA property: 94
  • Attending a gathering of more than five people: 8
  • Obstructing an officer or authorized staff: 6

The dive in April housing sales compared to last year: 63.4 per cent drop

April was the worst of it for the housing market. Sales plummeted amidst the early weeks of the pandemic, with the Realtors Association of Hamilton-Burlington saying only 482 places were sold. 

That was a 63.4 per cent drop from the same month in 2019, and a 56 per cent decrease from March. Sales stayed down in May, a drop of 42.2 per cent compared to the month in 2019. 

As time pressed on and the summer months rolled by, more listings hit the market and more homes were sold. The RAHB says sales are down in August compared to July, but still up 12.7 per cent compared to the same time last year. 

And despite the dip, homes are still getting pricier. The average price of a residence in August was $694,690 which was up 0.24 per cent from July and 16.3 per cent from last year. 


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