Hamilton remains in red zone, avoids COVID-19 lockdown again

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Hamilton has again avoided lockdown and will remain in the red "control" zone of the province's COVID-19 framework.

Ontario announced Friday afternoon that two areas, Windsor-Essex and York Region, will be entering lockdown as of 12:01 a.m. Monday.

Five other regions will also move to new levels with stronger public health measures, but not Hamilton, despite seeing a record-breaking number of outbreaks this week.

Dr. Elizabeth Richardson, the city's medical officer of health, introduced new, local restrictions last week, including reduced capacity and limits at shopping malls and stores and screening questions outside workplaces, to slow the spread of the virus.

On Friday a spokesperson for Hamilton public health said no new restrictions will be added at this point, so businesses and workplaces can continue to adapt to them while officials monitor the city's numbers for changes.

"Over the past few weeks, while our numbers are higher than we have seen in the past, they have remained relatively stable," wrote Jacqueline Durlov in an email.

"Public Health is committed to working with the community to avoid a lockdown."

Officials in Hamilton have warned the city will "without a doubt" enter a full lockdown if case numbers keep rising.

It's almost been four weeks since the provincial government announced that Hamilton was moving to the red zone in its colour-coded framework.

"In those four weeks, our numbers have not decreased and our situation has not improved," said Paul Johnson, the director of Hamilton's emergency operations centre, during a general issues committee meeting on Wednesday.

In about every major metric, he said, Hamilton is not only performing poorer as a community, but sometimes "dramatically so."

27 new cases, 2 more deaths

When asked during a media update Friday why Hamilton did not move to lockdown, Ontario health minister Christine Elliott said the province's chief medical officer of health bases that decision on hospitalization rates, community transmission and conversations with local health officials to get their view on whether or not stricter measures are needed.

Hospitals in York had indicated they were at a "tipping point," said Elliott.

"There are a number of factors that have to be considered. That is why in this situation York was recommended to go into lockdown. Hamilton, of course, is not there."

Local restrictions, such as the measures Richardson announced last week, are also "all taken into consideration," she said.

Public health data will continue to be reviewed weekly to determine if regions should stay where they are or move to a different level, according to the province.

There were 25 COVID-19 outbreaks in the city Friday — down one from the record-breaking 26 the day before.

That includes the 127 people at Grace Villa who have tested positive as part of the largest outbreak Hamilton has seen during the pandemic.

Seventy-seven residents and 50 staff members have tested positive.

Eleven people who lived at the home and were infected have died, including a woman in her early 80s who died on Dec. 10.

A woman in her early 70s who lived in the community also died Thursday, according to public health, bringing the total number of people who the virus in Hamilton who have died to 109.

The city reported 27 new cases of COVID-19 on Friday for a total of 3,932 (both probable and confirmed) since the pandemic began.

Of those, 574 were active and 3,214 resolved. Data on the city's website shows 286 people have been hospitalized.

The weekly rate of new cases per 100,000 is 88.7. Four per cent of people tested for the virus within the past week came back positive as of Dec. 10.