Hamilton reports 1 death, 30 new COVID-19 cases as city enters Stage 1 of Ontario's reopening plan

After more than two months of enduring a stay-at-home order imposed by the Ontario government as a strategy to combat the third COVID-19 wave, the province formally began its staged reopening plan on Friday.

The move comes after sharp decreases in cases among public health units across the province and increases in vaccination rates for the general public.

An Infectious disease specialist with St. Joseph’s Healthcare Hamilton says the lower numbers suggest “little risk” with the decision to move into Stage 1 of a plan that calls for more retail openings at low capacity, limited patio dining and outdoor gatherings of up to 10 people.

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“I don’t think we’re moving into anything that’s catastrophic here. It’s careful,” Dr. Zain Chagla said.

“It’s a planned reopening and it’s giving time for things to progress and make sure things are OK before moving to the next level.”

Stage 2 of the province’s plan is anticipated after another three weeks once 70 per cent of all eligible Ontarians have at least one COVID-19 vaccine dose and 20 per cent have two doses. That move would loosen more restrictions in a number of areas including outdoor settings up to 25 people and a further expansion of retail capacity.

The third stage would start three weeks after the second, assuming 80 per cent of residents have had a first dose and 25 per cent have a second. Indoor sports, seated events, casinos and bingo halls are just some of the amenities and attractions that will see loosened restrictions then.

Chagla expects cases to continue to drop as each stage progresses but says new COVID-19 cases will not “be off the table” as he expects the virus to survive for now.

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“As long as we can balance that with providing normal clinical care to people and that everyone has access to a vaccine, that’s as good as it gets right now,” Chagla said.

Hamilton reported 30 new COVID-19 cases on Friday and another virus-related death.

Public health data revealed the deceased was a person in their 50s, the seventh death in the 50-59 age group since the pandemic began.

The city has now had 396 deaths connected to the coronavirus.

More than 76 per cent of the city’s 304 active cases as of June 11 are among people under 50 with at least 13 per cent between the ages 50 and 59.

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The city’s per cent positivity rate remains at 5.3 per cent as of Friday, the province’s number also holds at 2 per cent.

There were three new reported outbreaks in the city on Thursday at a shelter, seniors home and a men’s residence downtown.

The outbreak at Dundas Retirement Place involves just a pair of cases tied to a worker and resident. The surges at the YMCA Hamilton Men’s Residence and Mission Services Men’s Centre each involve just a single case.

There were no outbreaks closed on Thursday.

Public health is reporting 12 total outbreaks across the city involving 57 cases. Five of the outbreaks are in workplaces tied to 16 cases.

As of Thursday, 68.1 per cent of adults in Hamilton have had at least a single shot of a COVID-19 vaccine with at least 387,000 doses administered to date.

Despite having the third highest weekly per cent positivity rate in Ontario, Hamilton was not one of the seven health units deemed to be hot spots in need of accelerated second doses on Monday.

Toronto, Peel, York, Halton, Waterloo, Wellington-Dufferin-Guelph and Porcupine health were the regions selected based on suspected high Delta variant incidence rates.

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Eligible residents are those in the regions who got their first shot on or before May 9.

More than 10.6 million total COVID-19 vaccine doses have been administered in Ontario so far. There are nearly 1.4 million people fully vaccinated with two doses. The province has been administering an average of 160,000 shots a day.

So far, 73 per cent of adult Ontarians have a first dose with 11 per cent having received both necessary doses.

Ontario is expected to receive 4.7 million vaccines in June, primarily Pfizer followed by Moderna, with supply from AstraZeneca pending.

© 2021 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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