Two infectious disease specialists say Ontario appears to be the “good news” story of late in the pandemic, with COVID-19 case rates among the best compared to the other provinces and territories in Canada.
During the Hamilton Health Sciences (HHS) staff town hall on Thursday, local epidemiologist Dr. Dominik Mertz said as of the end of September, there are only three provinces that have lower case rates per 100,000 population.
“We are pretty much where we had been in terms of case numbers a year ago, but certainly on a different trajectory,” Mertz told staff.
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“Last time, we were one month into an increase in case numbers. This time we are more on the down slide or in a phase where cases remain relatively stable.”
On Tuesday, the province’s science table revealed fourth wave numbers that had “flattened” with new cases, hospitalizations and intensive care unit (ICU) occupancy overall not increasing.
Science table projections suggested the worst-case scenario had the province hitting 9,000 daily cases by October, 4,000 in a moderate scheme, or just 500 in the best-case scenario.
A month later, Ontario has been fluctuating over the last four weeks between 450 and 950 daily, never reaching higher than 1,000 in a day.
Hospitalizations are up across the province compared to a year ago, but there have been consistent drops week over week in September, according to Mertz.
“Pretty much following that best case scenario at this point. These case numbers, decreasing pretty much ever since that model came out,” Mertz said.
Dr. Timothy Sly, epidemiologist and professor emeritus with Ryerson University, says two-dose vaccination rates that are comparably higher than the other provinces appears to be the reason for Ontario’s success in September.
“The good news is, at the moment, if you compare all the provinces across Canada, Ontario is doing very well,” Sly told 900 CHML’s Bill Kelly Show.
“We we seem to have flattened off this fourth curve. If anything, it’s depressed slightly.”
As of Thursday, more than 10.5 million people in Ontario have been fully immunized with two doses, which is 80.9 per cent of the eligible (12 and older) population.
That’s on par with Canada’s average rate of 80.73 and higher than the 73.6 per cent fully vaccinated in Alberta.
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Hamilton averaged 1,485 vaccinations for the month of September with Wednesday through Saturday representing the busiest days shots were put into arms.
Friday was the top day averaging over 1,900 inoculations.
The biggest segment of the population getting shots were those between 12 and 17 accounting for an 8.81 per cent increase in second doses month over month and 6.69 increase over 30 days in first jabs.
As of Sept. 30, 77.4 percent of people over 12 have now been fully vaccinated while 83.3 have had at least one shot.
“I think the reason that we’re doing well is because vaccination rates, although nowhere near where it should be, are much higher than the other provinces,” Sly said.
As of Friday the number of COVID-19 tests coming back positive in Alberta was 11.06 per cent, significantly higher than Ontario’s 1.8 per cent.
The western province also has 20,200 active COVID cases as of Friday compared to Ontario’s 4,969 – which is estimated to have three times the population of Alberta.
On Friday, Canada’s health minister Patty Hajdu said the federal government is providing offers of assistance to Saskatchewan and Alberta for resources including personal protective equipment (PPE), medical equipment, COVID-19 vaccines and testing amid the surge in COVID cases in both provinces.
Meanwhile, Hamilton appears to be avoiding it’s worst case scenario outlined in COVID-19 modelling released by public health in August – despite a recent uptick in cases.
Hamilton public health forecasts 120 COVID-19 cases per day by mid-October
Mertz says when the city hits the peak of the fourth wave by late October, as projected by the Scarsin forecast, daily case numbers should be on par or lower than the best case scenario of the predictions — 100 cases per day.
“Given that we went down further than what you see here, you would expect that that second wave of the fourth wave would be smaller than what you can see here as modelled a couple of weeks ago,” said Mertz.
The Scarsin forecast in September suggested Hamilton’s worst-case scenario for mid-October would be over 200 cases per day.
The city’s seven-day average as of Friday is 44 cases per day, about half of the 90 reported on Sept. 1. Hamilton’s case rate per 100,000, last reported on Wednesday, was 51.
Hamilton reports 314 active cases, two new outbreaks
Hamilton’s active COVID cases dropped for the fifth day in a row on Friday to 314, half of the 581 seen on Sept. 1.
Just over 60 per cent of active cases are in people under 30. Teens and those under the age of 12 represent 36 per cent of new cases.
The number of Hamilton-based tests coming back positive from Ontario labs is at 3.1 percent — lower than the 7.1 per cent reported at the beginning of September.
The city recorded its 314th death amid the pandemic on Friday — a person in their 60s.
Hospital admissions are about half of what they were at the beginning of September, moving from 44 cases with 18 in ICUs to just 20 cases and nine in ICU with COVID as of Oct. 1.
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There are two new outbreaks as of Thursday at another school and a child care.
Public schools account for 13 of the city’s 24 ongoing outbreaks tied to a total of 42 cases. The latest surge involves two students at Nora Frances Henderson Secondary on the Mountain while the outbreak at Shannen Koostachin Elementary ended on Thursday.
As of Thursday, there have been 183 total cases since the return to school in the second week of September with 164 among students.
There have been 125 cases in the last 14 days with student accounting for 115 of those.
The three current outbreaks at child cares involve just six cases with another two added when a surge at Today’s Family Greendale Early Learning & Childcare Centre was declared on Thursday.
Three facilities housing seniors account for 31 of the 112 total outbreak cases in Hamilton. The largest is at Macassa Lodge on the Mountain with 20 cases and 2 deaths since declared on Sept. 15.
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