Hamilton’s COVID-19 outbreak management ‘overwhelmed,’ so new ones will not be declared in workplaces


Published December 23, 2021 at 7:02 pm

Stating that it can no longer provide COVID-19 outbreak management in all settings, Hamilton’s public health unit will no longer declare new ones associated with workplaces or community settings.

In a media release on Thursday (Dec. 23), Hamilton Public Health Services (HPHS) said it will prioritize its staffing resources to manage COVID-19 outbreaks to protect the community members who are most vulnerable to severe outcomes from the virus. The new emphaiss will also concentrade on front-line healthcare workers, and other front-line workers, such as educators, correctional officers and non-clinical staff in local healthcare settings. The change was hastened by the emergence of the highly-transmissible Omicron variant, which has caused the weekly incidence rate of COVID-19 cases per 100,000 in Hamilton to more than double since Dec. 15. The current incidence rate of 194 per 100,000 is the highest in the city since April, during the pandemic’s third wave.

“A large surge in the number of community members testing positive for COVID-19 in Hamilton… has overwhelmed Hamilton Public Health Services’ ability to provide outbreak management in all settings,” the statement says.

High-risk settings in Hamilton include hospitals and complex continuing care facilities or acute care facilities. Congregate settings include long-term care homes, retirement homes, shelters, supportive housing and correctional institutions. Schools and childcare centres are also included. The city says these settings will continue to be provided with infection prevention and control guidance by HPHS staff and declared outbreaks will be disclosed on the city’s website.

In the meantime, businesses, organizations and individuals are asked to take measures to slow transmission of COVID-19. Public health recommendations to support these efforts can be found at hamilton.ca/coronavirus/covid-19-in-workplace.

The public health unit strongly recommends local workplaces, sports teams and other non-high-risk community settings with five or more confirmed cases of COVID-19 consider discontinuing operations for a period of 10 days. That will help to break transmission.

“This difficult, but necessary action, will help reduce the spread of the highly-transmissible Omicron variant of concern, and protect strained local healthcare capacity and Hamilton’s most vulnerable,” the city says.

A class order under Setion 22 of the Ontario Health Protection and Promotion Act related to workplaces that was issued on May 3 has been rescinded as of December 23, 2021.

The city’s release did not mention N95 masks.

It said the best way residents can can prevent the spread of COVID-19 and the Omicron variant of concern is to get fully vaccinated, and when eligible, get a third dose of a COVID-19 vaccine. They should also follow public health measures such as wearing a tight-fitting mask properly, maintaining physical distance, limiting their contacts and size of social gatherings, and staying home when they are unwell.

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