A recent backlog of tests plaguing Ontario labs has been “frustrating” according to Hamilton’s medical officer of health who said the city has been challenged over the last two weeks reporting daily COVID-19 case data accurately.
In a pandemic update on Monday afternoon, Dr. Elizabeth Richardson said public health has had a “challenge” inputting figures into their case management system recently after a spike in test result backlogs at provincial sites.
“So our numbers are not as easy to track day by day as I wish they were right now so that we could tell if it doesn’t look like we’re plateauing,” said Richardson.
The MOH said the city was working with the ministry of health to identify and resolve the cause of the delay.
Last week the province reported its backlog in tests to examine had doubled over a two-day period between Monday and Wednesday in which around 17,000 tests awaiting results turned into more than 34,000.
There is still a backlog of 25,049 tests awaiting results. The province has processed more than 14.2 million tests since the start of the pandemic.
At stake are key metrics the city uses to monitor the spread of the coronavirus across the community, such as the reproductive number, percent positivity, the daily seven-day case average, and the weekly rate per 100,000. The latter two have not been updated since Sunday.
Richardson says one key number, seven-day case rate per 100,000, is still higher than she would like to see. The rate has dropped somewhat over the last couple of weeks from 211 on April 20 down to 180 per 100,000 as of May 2.
“So while we do want to see us turn the curve with that peak, it’s certainly not a time to start thinking about letting up in terms of the control measures that are needed,” said Richardson.
The last reported seven-day case average checked in at 154 on the weekend while Hamilton’s reproductive rate remains below 1 at 0.86.
Also of concern is the percent positivity rate – which represents the average number of tests are coming back positive for COVID-19 in Hamilton.
The indicator rose following the weekend from 9.1 per cent on Sunday to a record 12.2 per cent on Monday. As of Tuesday, the number dropped slightly to 11.8 per cent.
More than 70 per cent of Hamilton’s 1,660 active cases are with residents under the age of 50, according to public health data. About 40 per cent of active cases are in people under 30.
Richardson says good vaccine coverage rates among the elderly and a rise in variant cases have changed the landscape of who’s negatively affected by the coronavirus.
Variants are proving not only to be more efficient at infecting the population but they are creating more severe respiratory issues with young people requiring hospitalization.
“We know that in particular, it affects people’s breathing, and so if they’re having any trouble breathing to quickly go and look for care and not be shy about that,” said Richardson.
Hamilton reports 133 new COVID-19 cases, 3 deaths
Hamilton reported 133 new COVID-19 infections on Tuesday and three more virus-related deaths.
The deceased were two people in their 60s and one in their 70s, according to public health. The city has now had 363 deaths since the pandemic began.
Public health recorded another workplace outbreak at 3 TEC Computer Services in Stoney Creek. The surge involves two workers.
Five outbreaks were declared over on Tuesday at two workplaces, a pair of supportive housing facilities and the Juravinski Hospital.
The surge with the F3 unit at the Juravinski lasted 15 days and involved five cases among patients.
As of May 4, there are still four outbreaks in city hospitals involving 37 people.
Outbreaks at Mabuhay Lodge and Harbour Home each involved just a pair of cases, while the outbreaks at ArcelorMittal Dofasco’s tube slitter line and the Kushies baby store had three cases each.
As of Tuesday, there are 17 workplace outbreaks across the city involving 147 total cases.
The two largest involve Aryzta/Oakrun Farm Bakery on Fiddlers Green Road, reporting 39 cases, while National Steel Car’s outbreak involves 32 employees.
A surge at Evergreen Manor retirement home in central Hamilton is the largest outbreak among homes with seniors. There are 19 total cases involving 17 residents and two staff members.
Hamilton has 36 outbreaks involving 288 total cases as of May 4.
Patients with COVID-19 within the city’s two hospital agencies stands at 150, with 102 at Hamilton Health Sciences (HHS) and 48 with St. Joe’s.