Hamilton COVID-19 outbreaks linked to school, weddings

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Published September 7, 2021 at 10:21 pm

Hamilton has a COVID-19 outbreak in a school before students even formally start the year, and has also had three connected to recent weddings.

The former involves two staff members at St. James the Apostle Catholic Elementary School, who tested positive for the virus according to the city’s public health dashboard. A workplace outbreak may be declared when two or more confirmed cases are connected.

Students, including those 11 and under who are too young to receive a COVID-19 vaccine, formally begin the school year on Wednesday. All told, five cases have been reported in the Hamilton-Wentworth Catholic District School Board (HWCDSB), and two have been reported in the Hamilton-Wentworth District School Board (HWDSB). The others each involved a single case at one school.

During a city briefing on Tuesday, Hamilton’s medical officer of health, Dr. Elizabeth Richardson, affirmed that the end goal is to keep children in school. The HWDSB is giving parents until Sept. 10 to change their mind between remote and in-person learning.

“We’re going to continue to see outbreaks as we go forward through the fall,” Dr. Richardson said during a media briefing. “The reality is that what happens in our schools reflects what happens in our community… That said, we are doing everything we can with the school boards, taking the lead in keeping our kids in schools rather than come out of the school setting.

“You’ve heard from (Ontario’s) chief medical officer of health, Kieran Moore, that he doesn’t see a situation in which we’re actually going to have to close down schools in terms of a full school board-wide closure. There may be times where classes are dismissed or there is a short-term operational closure.”

There are 19 outbreaks in Hamilton, with a total of 97 active cases. More than one-third of those are connected with three recent weddings. There were 20 cases connected to the Waterfront Centre on Bay Street, 11 linked a gathering at LIUNA Station on James Street North and four from Galileo Gardens in Stoney Creek, for a total of 35.

“There are areas where people are taking off their masks to eat or drink, they may be dancing, they may be doing more socializing and then we do tend to see increased levels of transmission,” Richardson said.

Hamilton reported 149 new cases across the three-day Labour Day weekend, and the seven-day moving average appears to have stabilized at 61. There were just four new hospital admissions within the last week.

With respect to indoor gatherings, Richardson indicated that the province’s forthcoming vaccine certificate program, which takes effect in two weeks on Sept. 22, could help reduce infections coupled with other public health measures such as masks and physical distancing.

Hamilton has the second-highest positivity test rate in Ontario after Windsor-Essex.

The public health unit in the Windsor area has decreed that beginning Sept. 20, capacity at weddings and funerals will be limited to 100 people. All guests will have to show proof of vaccination records and only the newlyweds will be allowed to dance indoors.

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