Hamilton

COVID-19 outbreak at Village Apartments nearly doubles to 65 cases

A COVID-19 outbreak at the Village Apartments has nearly doubled overnight, hitting 65 cases on Friday. The CEO of the non-profit that manages the highrise said that represents nearly 30 per cent of the building.

CEO says experience has been 'frustrating,' wants an on-site clinic for community

The COVID-19 outbreak at the Village Apartments is now at 65 cases, according to public health. (Google Maps)

The COVID-19 outbreak at the Village Apartments has nearly doubled overnight, hitting 65 cases on Friday.

Thirty-four cases were reported at the highrise the day before.

On-site testing has been carried out at the building, according to Hamilton Paramedic Service.

Lori-Anne Gagne, CEO of Victoria Park Homes, which manages the Village Apartments, said the door-to-door testing is likely why the case numbers jumped so quickly.

"That's very concerning to us as it now represents almost 30% of our building and increases our challenges in containing the outbreak," she wrote in an email.

The non-profit said it's working with area churches and community groups to contain the spread, but Gagne said it's been "frustrating."

When the testing was carried out, residents were told they'd be contacted by phone, said the CEO, but that did not happen.

"Today our phone lines are flooded with residents calling because they haven't heard anything so we follow up with public health only to learn that the message has changed," she said. "Now our residents will have to access the results through a portal and this was not explained to them at the time of swabbing."

Gagne said the building also hasn't received clear messaging about how people living there can get vaccinated.

CEO asks why door-to-door shots not possible

Victoria Park Homes offered its gym as a possible vaccination site back in February, long before the cluster of cases that led to it being declared an outbreak, but Gagne said it never heard back from public health.

She described the lack of response as "disappointing," adding the non-profit offered its gym again during a meeting with health officials on Monday.

On Friday she renewed her call for on-site vaccinations to get shots for residents and community members in the surrounding area.

"I cannot understand how public health can do door-to-door testing but not vaccination," she said. "Is it a supply issue?  I simply don't understand and wish I did because then maybe we could assist more effectively."

Paul Johnson, director of Hamilton's emergency operations centre (EOC), told city councillors on Wednesday that the city has some specific funding, particularly for paramedics, to do mobile testing, but when it comes to vaccinations resources are "stretched."

Setting up a clinic is more complicated than "just arriving with people and needles and the vaccine," he said.

"Is it a hard 'it will never be this way?' No," Johnson said. "At this point there is not the capacity for public health to set up and deliver these types of clinics."

Two other outbreaks are ongoing at apartment buildings.

Wellington Place Apartments held steady 22 cases on Friday.

Rebecca Towers, the first complex in the city where an outbreak was declared, also did not add any new cases, remaining at 109 cases since mid-March. One person there has died.

Shots set to start for Rebecca Towers

Public health is set to begin offering its residents COVID-19 vaccinations at the FirstOntario Centre tonight.

Tenants at Rebecca Towers also repeatedly called for on-site vaccinations. Instead, health officials have set aside three half-hour slots offering 50 appointments each throughout the weekend.

The appointments are by walk-in and are available between 7:30 and 8 p.m. Friday through Sunday.

Shots for people from Village Apartments and Wellington Place will also be available at the city's mass vaccination sites, according to public health. The details will be shared with residents once they're finalized.

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