The Hamilton health medical officer told city councilors Monday that public health is “cautiously optimistic” that the fourth wave of the COVID-19 pandemic has been averted.
Dr. Elizabeth Richardson said that residents’ adherence to public health measures and increased vaccination rates in August and September helped.
“However, COVID-19 is unlikely to go away this year,” Richardson told members of the city’s board of health (BOH).
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“The risk of transmission continues to exist as we have increased indoor activities during the fall, arriving with the colder weather and, of course, a new reopening is being considered.”
During a presentation at the BOH, the data suggested that the peak of the fourth wave hit the city in the last two weeks of August and the 31st had the highest seven-day average number of cases at 80.
The return of students to city schools also had a negative impact on daily cases, with a steady increase through much of September, peaking at about 11 reported school-related cases per day by the end of the month.
Since then, the numbers have declined in mid-October, with a current rate of just five school cases per day in recent weeks.
Reported outbreaks also increased throughout the wave, reaching a peak near the end of September when public health handled 25 active outbreaks and a total of 120 cases.
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As of Friday, active outbreaks had been substantially reduced to just seven with a total of 35 cases.
“The number of outbreak-related cases remained relatively low during this wave,” epidemiologist Stephanie Hughes told council members.
“The vast majority of outbreaks in the fourth wave had less than or equal to 10 cases per outbreak.”
Public health predicts about 50 COVID-19 cases per day through the end of 2021
The latest COVID-19 projections for the end of 2021, based on Scarsin’s forecast, suggest that the city is likely to see up to 50 COVID-19 cases per day.
The data suggest that the worst case scenario could be a peak of 100 cases per day or less than 30 at best, depending on the public’s adherence to risk reduction measures such as masking, distancing and avoiding contact. .
With the current measures in place, public health predicts that another 3,000 COVID-19 cases are likely to occur between now and the end of 2021, with more than 3,900 in a scenario where public health measures are reduced and the vaccination levels are delayed.
“The cases will mostly occur in the younger age groups,” said public health epidemiologist Ruth Sanderson.
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“More than half of the cases will occur in people between the ages of 20 and 59.”
Sanderson went on to tell the board that hospitalizations will likely remain at around two a day with current health measures, but skyrocket to four a day in the worst case.
People ages 20 to 59 are more likely to be hospitalized, and older age groups are likely to experience more severe outcomes if they contract the virus.
“The most severe outcomes from hospitalizations are likely to disproportionately affect those between the ages of 60 and 79,” Sanderson said.
The city anticipates 11 more worst-case deaths, and more than half come from people 60 and older.
63 new COVID-19 cases over the weekend, 1 death
Hamilton Public Health reported a total of 63 new COVID-19 cases in the past three days and the city’s 417 virus-related death.
Public health does not release details about the coronavirus-related deaths, but data released Monday suggested that a person in their 40s was the most recent victim.
The city’s seven-day average of new COVID-19 cases stands at 23, the same as reported on Friday.
Active cases increased slightly over the weekend, to 181 from 178 reported last Friday. More than 52 percent of active cases involve residents under the age of 30 as of October 18.
Three more outbreaks closed over the weekend, all in public schools. The largest of the three declared terminated was the surge at Tapleytown Elementary in Stoney Creek, which accounted for 13 total cases in an outbreak that lasted just under a month.
Of the four current outbreaks in Hamilton, two involve schools and a total of only four cases.
Public schools have had a combined 71 new COVID-19 cases in the past two weeks, 65 of which involve students.
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Another 3,003 doses of the COVID-19 vaccine went into arms over the weekend, according to public health data, and on Friday it had the most injections (1304) administered.
Over the past week, clinics across the city saw about a 45 percent drop in the doses given week-over-week, largely due to a delay over the long Thanksgiving weekend.
Last Monday, Thanksgiving, registered a drop of 88.53 percent compared to the same day the previous week.
About 80 percent of the city’s eligible population ages 12 and older have received two doses of the COVID-19 vaccine, and 84.5 percent have received at least a single injection.
Second chances among all Ontario residents were 83.1 percent as of Sunday, putting Hamilton behind 31 of the province’s 34 public health units.
The lowest rate of the two doses is among people between the ages of 25 and 29 – only 68.3% of people in that demographic have received two doses.
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