Hamilton ramps up COVID-19 testing, catching new cases at long-term care homes

The city has ramped up testing for COVID-19 this week, which has caught dozens of new cases that wouldn’t have been diagnosed under the old rules, says Hamilton’s medical officer of health.

Hamilton Public Health Services followed provincial guidelines by expanding its testing criteria this week, so health-care workers, first responders and others with mild coronavirus symptoms are automatically tested.

The newly expanded group also includes residents and workers with mild symptoms in long-term care homes, and people who live with someone who has immune problems, or heart, lung or renal disease. 

Dr. Elizabeth Richardson said Friday that these expanded testing measures helped detect, for example, 19 Cardinal Retirement Home residents who were largely asymptomatic.

Since March 16, 3,119 people have visited the city’s two assessment centres, and a new drive-thru centre opened this week. Public health workers have tested 2,553 people. 

Richardson gave the numbers as part of a twice-weekly media briefing about the pandemic. 

At the briefing, Mayor Fred Eisenberger said he’s declared a state of emergency in order to deploy workers to areas outside their usual jobs when the pandemic response calls for it.

Eisenberger said there was no reason to declare a state of emergency before because the province had already declared one, and city council had already given its senior management the authority to handle staffing and other COVID-19 issues.

Eisenberger said about 1,200 part-time city workers aren’t getting any hours right now because of COVID-19 measures.

Overall, Hamilton has 319 cases Friday, including five probable cases and 314 confirmed. That’s up from Thursday, when it was 306 (301 positive, five probable), and 276 the day before.

Of the city’s 319 cases, 132 people have recovered and 11 have died. Sixty of the city’s COVID-19 cases have been residents of long-term care facilities, and 40 people have been hospitalized to date.

Richardson said the COVID-19 outbreak at Wentworth Lodge in Dundas is over.

Here are some numbers from other areas:

Brant

The Brant County Health Unit, which includes Brantford, has reported three days straight of no new cases. There were 68 cases on Friday, the same as Wednesday and Thursday. 

“Over the past week, the number of confirmed COVID-19 cases in Brant have settled and we’ve experienced a much more gradual increase,” said Dr. Elizabeth Urbantke, acting medical officer of health.

“It’s important to be cautiously optimistic at this point, but we must keep in mind that this is not over yet. Due to COVID-19’s prolonged clinical course, we are still experiencing cases and hospitalizations.”

“This pandemic is proving to be like a marathon and we are all just beginning the race.”

Haldimand-Norfolk

Another person has died from COVID-19 in Haldimand and Norfolk counties. The Haldimand-Norfolk Health Unit is reporting 23 deaths, up from 22 on Thursday.

Most of its deaths have been residents of Anson Place Care Centre in Hagersville, where 70 residents have tested positive.

The number of cases increased to 155 from 152 on Thursday. The number of recovered stayed solid at 16.

Halton

Halton has 406 cases of COVID-19, including 359 confirmed and 47 probable. Burlington has 77 cases, including 66 confirmed and 11 probable. Twelve people have died.

On Thursday, Halton had 393 COVID-19 cases and Burlington had 73.

Niagara

Niagara saw a jump of 31 cases from Thursday to Friday. 

On Friday, there were 351 confirmed cases, up from 320 the day before and 299 on Wednesday. Of those, 119 people have recovered and 26 have died.

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