Hamilton adding wastewater testing data to COVID-19 dashboard


Published March 10, 2022 at 5:38 pm

The City of Hamilton is coming around on using your stool as a tool to survey coronavirus activity.

Tomorrow — roughly 10 weeks to day since tightened testing eligibility in Ontario made it difficult to gauge COVID-19 activity in a city — Hamilton will added wastewater surveillance data to its online COVID-19 dashboard. Wastewater surveillance data is gaining a broad acceptance as a way to assess whether the number of infected people in an area is decreasing, staying the same or increasing. Deaths, hospitalizations and intensive care unit (ICU) admissions are known as lagging indicators.

A city media release posted today (March 10) echoed previous comments from Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Elizabeth Richardson and COVID-19 Operations Chief Michelle Baird that the data is “not something that has worked in Hamilton.” However, Friday’s dashboard refresh will include the new categories “COVID-19 Cases and Wastewater Viral signal” and “COVID-19 Hospitalizations and Wastewater Viral signal.”

The release did not mention University of Ottawa civil engineering professor Robert Delatolla, whose research team has tracked wastewater data in Hamilton since 2020. But it did say Hamilton Public Health Services are working with researchers from that university.

“There has been some public discussion recently regarding the use of wastewater data to determine the trends as it relates to COVID-19,” the city’s statement reads. “Given the broad interest in the information, staff worked to obtain further data from the researcher and will begin reporting ‘COVID-19 Wastewater Testing in Hamilton’ on the City of Hamilton’s Status of Cases as part of tomorrow’s refresh.

“Hamilton Public Health Services appreciates the use of wastewater data to determine the trends as it relates to COVID-19, however, it’s not something that has worked as a predictive measure in Hamilton to date. Public Health Services has found the data to be variable as far as using it to determine COVID-19 trends as well as it does in other jurisdictions. To date, Hamilton Public Health Services has found percent positivity data and COVID-19 hospitalization data to be more representative of COVID-19’s current prevalence in Hamilton while other traditional forms of COVID-19 surveillance are less accurate due to testing eligibility changes and the resulting underestimation of cases.

” … Hamilton Public Health Services continues to work with the Province and the researchers at the University of Ottawa to understand how this study is being incorporated into monitoring metrics going forward and to understand the relationship between wastewater trends and other metrics such as hospitalization.

“These updates and enhancements to COVID-19 data are consistent with the City of Hamilton’s commitment to transparency and sharing relevant and timely COVID-19 data with the community.”

Ontario tightened access to polymerase chain reaction (PCR) tests at the end of December. The province’s top doctor, Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Kieran Moore, recently acknowledged that the case counts in the province were underreported by about 90 per cent. That means that the new 90 new cases reported in Hamilton today could actually be more in the range of 900.

The United States Center for Disease Control (CDC) uses wastewater data to help cities, in its wording “track SARS-CoV-2 levels in wastewater so communities can act quickly to prevent the spread of COVID-19.”

Ottawa was among the first communities in North America to conduct near-daily wastewater readings to try to detect COVID-19 activity.

“In essence, we are conducting a very broad COVID-19 survey to which we all contribute including those who are not getting tested themselves and those who may not even know they are infected,” says an explanation on Ottawa Public Health’s website.

Ontario reported 2,125 COVID-19 cases today, which by the rule of ten-fold, means there may have been 20,000 or more.

There were 244 patients in intensive care, three more than on Wednesday. Some 70.9 per cent are either unvaccinated, partially vaccinated or are not known to be fully vaccinated.

There are 742 patients hospitalized with COVID-19, a descreased of nine from Wednesday. Just over half — 50.67 per cent — have either an unknown vaccination status, only one doses or have not had a dose.

Hamilton’s COVID-19 dashboard is viewable at hamilton.ca/coronavirus/status-cases-in-hamilton.

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