At the end of 2020, we’re looking back at some of the Hamilton pandemic stories that made headlines in 2020. HAMILTON REGION A year of uncertainty: How COVID-19 unravelled in Hamilton in 2020
Posted: December 31, 2020
(December 30, 2020)
By: Jennifer Moore, The Hamilton Spectator
The pandemic of 2020.
Hamilton residents are quickly wrapping up a year of uncertainty with more uncertainty. Rumours began early in the new year about a deadly virus coming out of China. The first hint of the coming world crisis began in earnest with contaminated cruise ships and now we are watching with bated breath as vaccines trickle into our community.
Here’s a look at Hamilton and some of the pandemic stories that made headlines in 2020.
Hamilton public health asks return Wuhan, China visitors to isolate for 14 days
The risk seemed low at the end of February for residents but that didn’t stop Hamilton public health from asking travellers from Wuhan, China, to isolate.
Coronavirus pushing the buttons of our sense of vulnerability
Spectator reporter Jon Wells gets a tip on the first weekend of March about a McMaster student being tested for the virus. The student ended up testing negative but just the fact that someone local was being tested was enough to attract thousands of people to thespec.com in just a few hours.
Katrina Clarke reported on at least three Hamilton-area school boards cancelling time-honoured March break trips for their students due to the threat of coronavirus.
Canadians knew they were in for a ride when Tim Hortons cancelled its Roll up The Rim cups.
Then, McMaster University and Mohawk College cancelled in-person classes and exams.
COVID hits Hamilton
And then it hit. On March 12, The Spectator’s Joanna Frketich reported a radiation oncologist at Juravinski Cancer Centre treated 14 patients and worked with nine staff before discovering she was Hamilton and Halton’s first case of COVID-19.
Hamilton had its first death from COVID-19 March 24 after an 80-year-old resident from Heritage Green Nursing Home died in hospital.
Unifor and the Ontario Health Coalition warned of a dire shortage of staff in long-term care in March — just weeks before seniors’ homes became the epicentre of the pandemic shining a spotlight on the very issues the union and the advocacy group were warning about.
One of the most devastating consequences of the lockdown was seniors deteriorating in long-term care homes as their families were prohibited from visiting. “It’s a bad dream, a very bad dream,” said Susan Stevens, a 68-year-old Burlington senior who couldn’t visit her husband in long-term care due to COVID restrictions. “I miss him so much. It has been weeks. It’s so heartbreaking.”
Personal protective equipment shortage
One of the biggest stories of the first wave of the pandemic was the shortage of personal protective equipment (PPE) with hospitals, including Hamilton Health Sciences, trying to find ways to make it last as long as possible.
On April 13, health-care workers at Hamilton Health Sciences were reported to be bringing their own plastic containers to work to store their mask for same-day reuse.
On the front lines
The Spectator interviewed 10 hospital workers on the front lines of COVID-19 for the four-part series On the COVID-19 Front.
One of the most shocking and challenging moments of the first wave was when the Rosslyn Retirement Home had to be evacuated and 63 residents hospitalized in a matter of hours. One resident with COVID-19 was accidentally left behind without care for 18 hours.
The four-part Pandemic Politics series looked at how Ontario didn’t learn the lessons form SARS and examined whether provincial funding cuts and a planned merger hurt the public health response to COVID.
A backlog of postponed care due to the pandemic threatened to play out again as the second wave approached in the early fall. Patients are afraid to seek out health care during the pandemic raising concern that postponed care would be what overwhelms the health care system in the second wave.
We all relaxed a little in the summer, but then the SpinCo superspreader event was a harbinger for the second wave to come. Just before Thanksgiving, we all were on edge about the SpinCo outbreak — one of Canada’s largest superspreader fitness studio outbreaks that saw a total of 85 people infected. Public health had said the studio was following all guidelines.
Second wave lockdown
In mid-December, after weeks of speculation, the final straw came to push Hamilton into a second lockdown — which ended up being only a week before the entire province was locked down.
Just last week, the first doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine were administered in Hamilton, offering hope as we move into 2021.
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