Rapid COVID-19 tests for Hamilton schools going where transmission is high, vaccinations are low – Hamilton

Hamilton’s medical officer of health says the city will be applying its “targeted” COVID-19 rapid test program for schools and child care pretty much the way the province’s chief medical officer recommended on Tuesday.

Ontario’s top doctor, Dr. Kieran Moore, revealed communities with a high prevalence of active COVID-19 cases would be the spots where the rapid test would roll out and that widespread asymptomatic surveillance testing in schools would not be supported, claiming it wouldn’t be as effective.

“When you apply these tests in a low-risk setting you’ll find that you get more false positives than true positives and you’ll send people for PCR testing as a result and they’ll be off school because they have to wait for the result,” Moore said.

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Dr. Elizabeth Richardson said Hamilton’s screenings will follow that lead and be administered in settings where cases are most prevalent.

“We’re closely monitoring COVID transmission, community vaccination rates and working with school boards and other health units across the province to identify when the voluntary rapid antigen screenings could be used in areas where risk of transmission is high and vaccination rates are low,” Richardson told Global News.

The announcement comes after groups of parents had organized surveillance testing for their schools using the rapid test kits, but the government told agencies to stop distributing them to anyone but businesses.

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Local public health units will be able to deploy the antigen test kits to schools starting next week.

Hamilton reported another outbreak at a city school amid Public Health Ontario’s announcement Tuesday. Two new COVID cases were reported at the Hill Park Adult Day School on the Mountain.

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The addition brings the total number of outbreaks at city learning facilities to 14, with seven at Hamilton Wentworth District School Board buildings, five at the Catholic board (HWCDSB) and another at Redeemer University.

In the last 14 days, the two public school boards have reported 160 total COVID cases with 110 tied to students. The bulk of the cases, about 92 per cent, are connected to elementary schools.

The HWDSB’s chair said she was “pleased” with Moore’s announcement suggesting the tests would “slow” spread of the virus in schools.

“COVID-19 cases in schools results in many students isolating and shifting to learning from home; we know this has significant impacts on our students, staff and families,” Dawn Danko said in a release following the province’s initiative.

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“Targeted rapid antigen screening is one more way that we can detect a case of COVID-19 early and potentially slow the spread in our schools.”

Ryan Imgrund, a biostatistician who tracks COVID-19 case numbers every day, was not as optimistic about Moore’s announcement since the province appears be offering little support to the health units and schools.

“Really, he’s just allowing the public health to do what they want with rapid testing, which is frankly exactly what’s happening right now,” said Imgrund.

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“This was literally an announcement about nothing.”

Imgrund believes a ‘test the state’ strategy is what actually should be employed, triggering testing whenever there’s a single case.

“Any school that has one case probably has more undetected cases, and they would meet that threshold,” Imgrund said.

Hamilton’s COVID-19 case rate, hospitalizations drop

Hamilton’s top doc says the city’s COVID-19 case rate week over week continues to be “high” despite a slight decrease.

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As of Tuesday, the seven-day average number of cases is at 36, a drop from last week’s reported 46 cases.

The city’s active cases continues to drop week over week from 333 reported this time last week to just 250 as of Oct. 5.

More than 60 per cent of those new cases are among people under the age of 30.

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The number of tests coming back positive for COVID also dropped slightly week to week from the 3.2 reported last Tuesday to 3.1.

Ontario’s test positivity dropped to 1.8 per cent Tuesday, down from two per cent on both Sunday and Monday.

Richardson says one of the positive trends in the city is with COVID-related hospitalizations, which have dropped by 12 cases since the same time last week.

We’re very glad to see that the number of daily new hospitalizations is staying low at this time,” Richardson said during a pandemic update on Monday.

“There’s currently less than one new hospital admission each day on average.”

Hamilton has 21 outbreaks with public schools accounting for 13 of them. There are 60 cases connected with the current surges among educational facilities in the city – including nine at Redeemer University.

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The outbreak at the Macassa Lodge on the Mountain continued to grow with yet another case added on Tuesday. There are 21 total cases at the seniors home since the surge began on Sept. 15. Two deaths have been connected with the outbreak.

For the first four days of October, an average of 1,178 COVID-19 vaccination shots have been put into the arms of Hamiltonians, slightly lower than the 1,485 reported through the entire month of September.

Hamilton is still lags behind most of the province in two jabs as only 78 per cent of the city’s population have been fully vaccinated. The city is fourth last among all 34 health units behind the provincial average for two shots at 81.5 per cent.

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