Hamilton’s Medical Officer of Health Considering Local COVID Restrictions as Omicron Variant Spreads

Image of the City of Hamilton Zoom Media Conference

Mayor Eisenberger speaking during a public media conference held via the Zoom platform on May 1, 2020

Hamilton’s average daily COVID case count continues to increase as people spend more time indoors and the more transmissible Omicron variant of the virus spreads.

In response, Hamilton’s Medical Officer of Health Dr. Elizabeth Richardson is asking people to decrease their contacts and make changes to protect healthcare capacity.

“We’re now hearing that the spread even amongst fully vaccinated individuals is infecting four to eight times more individuals than the Delta variant did,” Dr. Richardson said during a public briefing today. “And even if it is less severe, this could put significant strain on our healthcare system.”

Dr. Richardson says she is considering implementing local COVID restrictions and will be releasing guidance on Monday, December 20 during a planned afternoon press conference.

Dr. Richardson is recommending local schools cancel “in-person staff meetings, social gatherings, holiday events, and for all elementary-age students to stay in their respective cohorts at recess.”

It is important to reduce “the number of cases that have severe outcomes like hospitalization, ICUs use and death, particularly amongst those that are most vulnerable over the age of 50,” stated Dr. Richardson. “We want to save lives. And we want to protect our healthcare system so it could continue to serve us all.”

Asked by CBC if she is considering local restrictions, Dr. Richardson stated:

“That is something that we are all looking at, you’ve seen my colleagues across the province, a number of them put them in place, we are very much looking at putting those further in place here in Hamilton, we are consulting with the Office of the Chief MOH, about those issues, and what their plans are and when ours will come forward. So that’s absolutely top of mind for us. And it’s something we’re actively looking at.”

Hamilton Mayor Fred Eisenberger echoed Dr. Richardson’s comment, calling on Hamiltonians to take precautions, get vaccinated if they are not already, and receive their booster shots as soon as they qualify.

“I think people need to be taking this one as seriously as all the other ones and this is not a cause for panic, but certainly a cause for action,” he stated.

“We’ve learned a lot. These past two years about how to keep ourselves and our loved ones safe. Everything we were doing is to protect the residents and beat this virus. And it’s vital that we all including those who have already received the vaccine continue to follow the public health guidelines to reduce the spread of COVID-19 and the variance in our community. And the best community service you can do for your family and friends and neighbours is to get vaccinated.”

Hamilton’s health care providers are working to increase their vaccination capacity to respond to the need for immediate booster doses, says Dr. Richardson.

“Healthcare system partners here in Hamilton, like across those across Ontario are ramping up to deliver more third doses over the coming weeks. You’ll hear more about those plans in the coming days.”

The City’s “gradual return to work process” is being reviewed says Acting General Manager of Emergency and Community Services Grace Mater. “In light of the changing public health trends. We will be looking at the impact on that timing as we look at returning them to the office. We will be reviewing our plans, and we’ll be making an announcement to all of our staff later this week.”

The next City of Hamilton public briefing is scheduled for Monday at 3:00 pm.

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