With the second wave of COVID 19 showing more alarming numbers every day Hamilton Public Health says it is having trouble following up with cases and contacts in a timely manner. Dr Elizabeth Richardson, the Medical Officer of Health in a report to the Board of Health, says as a result the department in its contact tracing has been forced to focus on the most critical areas. The follow-up will now be done only with the highest risk contacts.
As a result, the collection of qualitative data and some quantitative data elements have been suspended along with collection of detailed data social determinants of health data. The latter revelation drew criticism from Ward One Councillor Maureen Wilson. Dr Richardson explained that a contact tracing session takes about three hours and with the explosion in new cases there is simply not enough staff. Dr, Richardson added, “we already know quite a bit about the social determinants, so the issue is not being ignored.”
Councillors heaped praise on Public Health for coming up with a way to get the temperature-sensitive Pfizer vaccine delivered directly to long-term care home vis a refrigerated mobile unit. Dr Richardson confirmed yesterday’s announcement that all Long-Term Care Residents, LTC staff and designated caregivers will all get their shots by January 18.
The report confirmed that both a new UK variant of the virus was detected after a rapid increase in COVID-19 cases was observed late September 2020, with an ongoing increase as of December 2020 and as well, a South African variant was detected through routine genomic surveillance in December 2020. Data suggests these strains may be more transmissible but early analyses suggests there is no increased risk for hospitalization or reinfection with the variants. Currently there is no indication that the vaccines will be less effective against these variants, subject of ongoing study
Assessment Centre hours have been extended to meet increased demand and now residents are able to access COVID testing within one day.
From a staffing perspective Public Health now has 263 Public Health Services staff and 8 City staff supporting COVID-19 response. In late December the department deployed 21 Public Health Nurses and 2 Public Health Services Leaders to meet the increased demand. The Ministry of Health has provided 11 Case Management staff who started as of Jan 4, 2021 and 33 Contact Tracers. The department is attempting to recruit more staff. have started
As of January 10, 2021, there have been approximately 5,800 vaccines administered in Hamilton. As of this week individuals will begin receiving their 2nd dose of vaccine. So far, just over 3000 of 6200 staff/essential caregivers in long-term care and high-risk retirement homes in Hamilton have received vaccines with more planned in the coming days.