Hamilton’s chief medical officer of health and the director of the city’s Emergency Operations Centre (EOC) are raising the alarm as the number of local COVID-19 cases continue to rise.
At a virtual media briefing on Monday (Nov. 9), Dr. Elizabeth Richardson noted that Hamilton’s average number of daily cases has climbed from 20 last week to 43 this week.
On what Dr. Richardson called a “very sobering day,” Hamilton on Monday recorded another COVID-19-related death, saw an increase of 67 newly confirmed cases, and the number of active cases in the community climb to an all-new high of 364.
“If we continue to see the numbers we’ve seen over the last few days,” she warned, “We could move to orange (in the province’s new COVID-19 framework ) or beyond that if things keep going as they are.”
An Orange designation in Hamilton would mean further public health measures and restrictions on gatherings and in public spaces.
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EOC Director Paul Johnson said that the rise in cases is “very concerning” especially its impact on critical services, particularly as it relates to long-term care settings.
“One of the things that’s really worrying us at the EOC is the number of people who have to isolate,” Johnson said. “We’re worried about the human resource element because we don’t want them to be out of the workplace. It becomes a challenge to deliver critical services.”
He also noted how disappointing it is to hear of local establishments ‘flouting’ public health recommendations.
Johnson said that over the weekend, fines were handed out to an establishment that was reportedly “filled to the gills” with unmasked patrons who were “up dancing and singing,” to very loud music. He said the unnamed establishment wasn’t collecting data for contact tracing either.
“This is incredibly disappointing,” he said. “When you see these things happening, you have to question the motivations behind it.”
While Johnson refused to name the offending business, because it’s not about ‘naming and shaming,’ he held it up as an example to the community of exactly what not to do.
PHS says that these kinds of gatherings and people gathering with people outside their own household and going to work while mildly sick is what is driving the increase in COVID-19 cases right now.
“It’s extremely concerning to me to hear about these [incidents] during case management and contact tracing,” said Dr. Richardson about these gatherings. “Close contact is the highest risk [for transmitting the virus].”
In addition to washing hands, she urged residents to maintain a physical distance from people outside one’s household, even while out dining, and to remain masked if that proves impossible.
Mayor Fred Eisenberger also said that social bubbles of 10 are no longer the recommendation and haven’t been for a while.
“We are still in a state of emergency, I think people forget that,” he said. “Bubbles of 10 are not the case anymore.”
He added that it’s up to the community to do their part to prevent the spread of the virus and protect the health-care system from becoming overwhelmed.
Dr. Richardson added that while acute-care and ICU capacity is ‘OK’ currently, hospitals are starting to see more cases trickle in.
“If we want to limit spread we really need to take responsibility into our own hands,” she said.
For more information on what you can do to protect yourself and others from COVID-19, visit the city’s website.