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Avoid all non-essential public gatherings, health officials advise

There is no safe number when it comes to public gatherings, says the region’s acting medical officer of health.

“I would like all residents in our community not to gather,” Dr. Hsui-Li Wang said in a teleconference briefing, which preceded a provincial announcement prohibiting social gatherings of more than five people.

Public Health officials were still receiving reports of public gatherings such as church services. Wang called for an immediate halt to such practices.

“We have been getting a lot of calls from the public about gatherings that they’re witnessing,” she said. “We have heard that there are some gatherings of faith communities that are still relatively large.”

Wang advises against all non-essential in-person meetings of any kind, noting the region regularly gets calls from residents reporting concerns ranging from church services to sightings of neighbours recently returned from travelling and venturing outdoors despite self-isolation protocols.

“If everyone does their part, that’s going to help.”

“We don’t want these types of gatherings to happen anymore,” added Mike Murray, the region’s chief administrative officer.

To date, the region has yet to lay any charges in connection to regulations put in place to stem the spread of the COVID-19 virus. Officials are focusing on public education rather than enforcement, he said.

“Our goal is compliance.”

Wang noted that those groups and individuals contacted about their practices have typically complied immediately with the concerns raised by officials.

“I sincerely appreciate their cooperation,” she said.

Limiting physical contact is the paramount goal just now, she stressed. To that end, it’s best to act as though you could come in contact with the virus in any circumstance.

The number of cases in the region continues to rise, with officials as yet unable to determine when the number might peak.

As of Wednesday, the latest update from Public Health, there are 117 cases of COVID-19 in the region. There has been one fatality, a 41-year-old man with underlying health conditions who died Tuesday at St. Mary’s General Hospital in Kitchener.

Fifteen of the diagnosed cases have been resolved. For people at home, that means no fever and symptoms improving after self-isolating for 14 days from the onset of symptoms. For health care workers and those in the hospital, that’s two negative tests at least 24 hours apart.

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