A Hamilton health policy expert says a recent spike in COVID-19 cases reported by schools is likely tied to coronavirus transmission within the community rather than at a learning facility itself.
McMaster University’s Dr. Ahmad Firas Khalid told Global News that COVID-19 outbreaks among students and staff are likely not originating in schools but from other settings.
“Evidence tells us that schools themselves might not be a risk factor, however, where they are located in the community and the rates of COVID-19 in that community is the major risk factor,” said Firas Khalid.
The physician bases the finding from a World Health Organization (WHO) report released in late 2020.
He says schools could potentially become a vector for transmission if the outside community becomes complaisant to public health measures, such as lack of social distancing and the omission of masks.
“One way we can make sure that schools stay open is, that within your own community, do your best to really maintain social distancing.”
On Thursday, Hamilton public health reported active outbreaks at 13 schools with a combined 51 cases among students and staff.
The latest outbreak is at Bellstone Christian in Mount Hope where nine students and a staff member have come down with COVID-19.
There are five schools on the Mountain that are not a part of the public system with active outbreaks: Bellstone Christian, Guido de Brès Christian High, Timothy Christian, École élémentaire catholique Monseigneur-de-Laval and École élémentaire Pavillon de la jeunesse.
The Hamilton Wentworth District School Board (HWDSB) is dealing with three elementary school outbreaks as of Thursday at Ancaster Meadow, Strathcona and Mount Albion in Stoney Creek.
Meanwhile, an outbreak at Lisgar Elementary School which had just two student cases during an outbreak that lasted 11 days was declared over on Wednesday night.
Since Sunday, the board has reported 41 new COVID-19 cases involving 37 students and four staff members.
The city’s Catholic school board (HWCDSB) has six outbreaks at five locations which include St. Bernadette in West Hamilton, St. Clare of Assisi in Stoney Creek, St. Thérèse of Lisieux and a pair of surges at St. Peter and Paul Catholic Elementary School on the Mountain.
The only public secondary school in an outbreak is St. Thomas More Catholic on the Mountain.
There are 53 active COVID-19 cases at 23 schools in the Catholic system as of Thursday — 46 students and seven staff.
Hamilton reports two new COVID-19 deaths, 52 new cases on Thursday
Hamilton public health reported 52 new COVID-19 cases on Thursday and two virus-related deaths.
The city now has 332 deaths tied to the coronavirus amid the pandemic.
The new deaths were a pair of people between the ages 70 and 79.
The city revealed another outbreak at another Kelly’s supportive housing residence. The location at Stinson Street has a case with a staff member.
There are two other Kelly’s locations in outbreaks as of April 8 — the long-term care home on Proctor Boulevard and the residence on Main Street East.
A large outbreak at Hamilton General ended on Thursday. The surge involved 28 cases and four deaths in a span of 27 days.
Smaller outbreaks at Blackadar Continuing Care in Dundas and Orchard Terrace Retirement in Stoney Creek also ended on Wednesday.
The city’s two hospital systems have a combined 101 patients being treated for COVID-19: 69 at Hamilton Health Sciences (HHS) facilities and 32 at St. Joe’s.
St. Joe’s hospitals are reporting acute care occupancy at 93 per cent as of Wednesday with HHS reporting 93 per cent occupancy.
Three area hospitals are experiencing outbreaks, which account for 42 cases since mid-March and six virus-related deaths.
Active cases dropped on Thursday by 55 to 849 as of April 7.
There have now been 13,687 total coronavirus cases locally since the pandemic began last year.
Hamilton’s vaccine program up to 120,000 doses administered
Hamilton is reporting 120,573 vaccine doses have been put into residents’ arms as of April 7.
The clinic at Hamilton Health Sciences (HHS) has administered the bulk of the shots, having jabbed about 55,000.
Around 27,000 shots have been given at the St. Joe’s site, about 19,000 through the mobile clinics, close to 11,000 at the large site at First Ontario, close to 5,000 in primary care settings and close to 3,000 at pharmacies.
As of Wednesday, the city’s mobile vaccination teams have been deployed to two Central Hamilton recreation centres, Bernie Morelli and Pinky Lewis.
The clinics will run for five days until Sunday.
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