Health officials are characterizing Hamilton’s current COVID-19 activity as “high and stable” with the possibility of a spike in infections among residents in the fall.
During the city’s public health department meeting on Wednesday, epidemiologist Ruth Sanderson told councilors the city has seen a slight increase in transmission since mid-June, but hospitalizations linked to the condition have remained constant.
“Sewage signals, COVID-19 hospitalizations and ICU admissions indicate that we are in overall stable condition,” Sanderson said.
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In recent weeks, the seven-day average of hospitalizations in the city has been above one admission per day, reaching as many as two admissions on some occasions in late July and early August.
Specifically, over the last two weeks, this average reached 1.9 on July 22, 1.7 on July 29, and 2.0 on August 5.
“What we haven’t seen is a big increase in hospitalizations like we’ve seen in previous waves,” Sanderson said.
“It is important to keep in mind that this indicator lags behind other indicators, such as B. percent positivity of cases and effluent.”
Intensive care unit (ICU) admissions during the seventh wave remained low, with numbers averaging slightly above zero between late June and mid-July.
Meanwhile, institutional outbreaks in the past two weeks have shifted from 33 reported outbreaks across the city in late July to 27 on Wednesday.
The latest Scarsin forecast for Hamilton predicts more COVID activity in the fall due to falling immunity, increased transmission from potential new subvariants, as well as close contact between residents spending more time indoors.
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It expects hospitals to record 323 new COVID-related admissions between August 10 and December 31, with those over 80 accounting for about 42 percent of that volume.
About 29 percent of those who experience COVID hospital care will be between the ages of 60 and 79.
Recent changes in vaccine suitability and availability are reflected in the new estimate, which is based on vaccine uptake prediction due to expanded fourth-dose suitability for those aged 18 and over and vaccines now available for younger children aged six months and over are available for five years.
“However, this current guidance does not account for other potential future changes that may affect the guidance in the coming months,” Sanderson noted.
“For example, the potential availability of newer vaccines adapted for the emergence of variants or Hamiltonians, or the potential increased use of personal protection measures such as masking.”
The city’s vaccination campaign hasn’t moved much since the last public health update in June.
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First and second doses among Hamiltonians remain at 88 and 85 percent of the population, respectively.
Third doses, or first booster shots, were given to just over 55 percent of the population aged 12 and older, with fourth doses accounting for 15 percent of the population aged 18 and older.
Infectious disease manager Jordan Walker told councilors the city is expected to conduct a fall booster campaign with local health partners and help manage a routine school immunization program.
The province is expected to have access to an Omicron-specific vaccine in the fall, but Walker hadn’t heard when it might be available to Hamiltonians.
“Unfortunately, we don’t know when we’ll have access to these vaccines in the fall, nor exactly which populations will be eligible in the early stages of rollout,” Walker said.
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