If Hamilton is gripped by a third wave of the COVID-19 pandemic, public health data suggests it will be the variants to blame.
The city’s active COVID-19 case count reached 509 on Sunday after public health reported 131 residents tested positive over the weekend.
That is the highest number of active cases in the city since Feb. 6, when there were 527.
Of this weekend’s new cases, 54 are suspected to be a more contagious COVID-19 variant after screening positive for a mutation of the novel coronavirus.
Six cases of the B.1.1.7 variant, which originated in the U.K., have been confirmed at a lab in Hamilton, including one new case confirmed on Sunday.
The city reported two COVID-related deaths on Saturday — a person in their 60s and a person over 80, according to The Spectator’s records — and none on Sunday, bringing the number of Hamiltonians who’ve died of COVID-19 to 295.
Sixteen COVID-positive residents were hospitalized over the weekend, while the city declared five new outbreaks.
Public health reported one resident case at the Native Women’s Centre and the east Hamilton emergency shelter.
Five patients tested positive in the F3 (Acute Medicine) Unit at Juravinski Hospital and Cancer Centre, and three employees tested positive in the supply chain division at DHL, where an unspecified number of workers screened positive for a variant.
It is unclear if Saturday’s DHL outbreak is related to an outbreak declared March 10 at the logistics division at the company’s John C. Munro Hamilton International Airport location, which also involved suspected variant cases.
Three more employees at that location were reported positive on Saturday, bringing the total to 12.
Hamilton’s worst current outbreak, at the Hamilton-Wentworth Detention Centre, grew to 73 cases after an inmate at the jail on Barton Street tested positive on Saturday.
Two new outbreaks were announced Sunday, triggered by a single staff member at the Mission Services East Hamilton shelter overflow site testing positive, as well as two patients and a staff member on Unit 8 West of Hamilton General Hospital.
Outbreaks were declared over at Nicayne Metal Processing and The Carlisle Retirement Residence.
Halton’s health unit reported 84 new COVID-19 cases over the weekend, including 43 that screened positive for a variant.
Eleven of Halton’s suspected variant cases were among the 20 new cases reported in Burlington.
In Haldimand-Norfolk, six residents tested positive for COVID-19 over the weekend while 14 were deemed recovered, moving the active case count to 44.
There has been one confirmed case of the U.K. variant in Haldimand-Norfolk.
Six Nations reported two COVID-19 deaths on Saturday — bringing the overall death toll to seven — along with seven new recoveries.
Active cases on the reserve fell five to 35, with two residents still in hospital, down from four on Friday.
Provincewide there were 3,215 new cases reported between Friday and Sunday, though the province’s data lags one day behind local health units.
According to Sunday’s provincial update, 26 Ontarians died of COVID-19 over the previous two days and 2,318 people recovered from their bout with the virus.
— With files from Jeremy Kemeny, The Hamilton Spectator
J.P. Antonacci, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Hamilton Spectator