With another lockdown looming, COVID-19 case counts and presumed variants surged in Hamilton on Saturday and four more people died.
In its daily report, public health listed 171 new cases and 124 new variant cases. With these newly reported cases, the city’s active case count hit 813 — numbers Hamilton hasn’t seen since the second wave. As well, the city has 704 screened positive variant cases and 12 lab-confirmed cases, all B.1.1.7, the variant first reported in the U.K.
Active case numbers dropped below 800 on Jan. 19, but have been steadily climbing since hitting a low of 258 on Feb. 16, the day Hamilton transitioned out of Ontario’s stay-at-home grey zone into the less-restrictive red zone.
On Friday, the province announced that Hamilton will move back into the COVID-19 grey-lockdown zone on Monday.
To assist already struggling businesses through another lockdown, the city announced it was accelerating the patio program that allowed businesses to set up seating in non-traditional areas such as sidewalks and parking lots. The grey zone rules forbid indoor dining.
On Saturday, the city launched the “Outdoor Dining District” program, days before its scheduled launch this coming Thursday.
Bars and restaurants with approved patios — there are 81 in the city so far — are allowed to open them immediately. The city said it is working to process and approve more applications.
Ward 2 Coun. Jason Farr wrote on Twitter on Friday night that the city has 151 applications for the special patios.
The lockdown comes with a growing number of outbreaks and outbreak cases.
Hamilton reported five new outbreaks — bringing the total to 40 — including one reported by The Spectator on Friday at St. Clare of Assisi School in Stoney Creek, where two students tested positive.
An outbreak was declared at a construction site at 2126 Rymal Rd. E., where seven workers tested positive. Cases at that site screened positive for a COVID variant.
At Guardian Limeridge Pharmacy, two staff members tested positive.
One Rygiel Supports for Community Living staff member tested positive, the third active outbreak at Rygiel Supports.
And at Paddock Transportation in Stoney Creek, four staff members tested positive.
The number of cases at St. Peter’s Hospital’s palliative care ward, has grown to 16 from the five reported Friday. Of those, 14 are patients and two were staff. The city reported that one patient died with COVID.
Two more patients in Juravinski Hospital’s acute medicine unit died. In that outbreak, one more person tested positive, bringing the total to 50 and four people have died.
Hamilton’s four reported deaths Saturday brings the total since the beginning of the pandemic to 309. All four of the reported deaths were residents 80 years old or over, according to The Spectator’s records.
Since the beginning of the pandemic, 12,457 Hamilton residents have tested positive for COVID-19 and 11,133 of those people have recovered. A total of 946 people have been hospitalized with the virus.