Nightclub outbreak over, yet Hamilton COVID case counts, incoming students prompt more testing options

A COVID-19 outbreak that public health said began at Sizzle nightclub and infected dozens of people has been declared over. The city is also increasing testing in response to rising daily case counts and anticipated demand as students return to school.

With expected demand on the rise, city announces it is increasing capacity at COVID-19 assessment centres

Hamilton is increasing the hours at its COVID-19 testing centres as daily case counts climb. (Evan Mitsui/CBC)

A COVID-19 outbreak that public health said began at a Hamilton nightclub and infected dozens of people has been declared over.

Fifty-one cases were linked to Sizzle Nightclub after the outbreak began on August 19.

Health officials previously said interviews with some of the people infected at the Hess Village site indicated "a number of patrons were not masking, even when not eating/drinking, nor maintaining physical distancing, which likely contributed to transmission."

Inspectors visited the club on Aug. 20 and found "minor issues," including a lack of signs at the entrance about signs and symptoms of the virus, according to public health. No fines were issued by bylaw officers.

The outbreak was declared over on Monday, which marked 14 days since the last know exposure on site with no evidence of COVID-19 transmission that could "reasonably" be related to the club, spokesperson James Berry said in an email. 

Sizzle responded to the news with a post on Instagram.

"We continue to follow covid restrictions and guidelines to create a safe space for our guests," it read.

City ramping up testing

There are currently 18 active outbreaks in Hamilton. Seventeen cases have been linked to the Waterfront Centre, an event venue on Bay street, and 14 at Carol Anne's Place, a women's drop-in centre run by the YWCA.

The city saw 103 new cases on Wednesday, increasing its total to 23,227 so far during the pandemic.

Of those, 581 are active and just over 93 per cent are resolved. No new deaths were reported, so that number remains at 406.

Hamilton's seven-day average for new cases is 77.

In response to the rising number of daily cases and an expected spike in demand for testing as students return to school this month, the city announced this week it's increasing capacity at its assessment centres.

The St. Joseph's Healthcare Hamilton Mountain Testing Centre has boosted its hours from 8 a.m. to 10:30 p.m. Monday-Friday and 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Saturdays and Sundays. Health officials say the site, which is at Mohawk College (135 Fennell Avenue West), can complete 1,000 tests each day.

The West End Assessment Centre at 690 Main Street West, is also offering testing seven days a week, from 9 a.m.- 5 p.m., with a capacity of 200 tests daily, but building toward 500.

At the peak of the pandemic, health officials say they were testing roughly 1,300 people each day, but that number has since dropped to about 616.

The city had carried out 370,363 of COVID-19 tests at testing centres as of Tuesday.

Public health said testing for vulnerable populations, such as people in care homes or experiencing homelessness, will also continue, along with mobile testing for homebound individuals and in areas with low vaccine rates.