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COVID-19 death toll hits 45 in region, more expected from long-term care facilities

Posthumous testing may lead to an increase in the number of deaths in Waterloo Region linked to COVID-19, Public Health officials say. The toll now stands at 45 as of Friday, an increase of 13 since the department’s last video conference on Wednesday.

More fatalities are expected from long-term care and retirement facilities, said acting medical officer of health Dr. Hsiu-Li Wang.

“Very sadly, I expect to see an increase of deaths in these settings going forward,” she said.

Of the 13 most recent deaths, some were identified through posthumous testing, an initiative of the Public Health department. There have been no orders from the provincial coroner to administer additional tests when someone passes away in a long-term care facility, with Wang noting there may be a delay given the focus on primary testing to prevent further casualties.

There may be future jumps in the statistics posted on the Region of Waterloo Public Health’s dashboard, reflecting a lag in the posthumous results.

As of this morning, the region reports 604 cases of COVID-19, up from 550 reported on Wednesday.

Public Health reports there were 550 cases of the coronavirus as of Wednesday morning, with 31 deaths linked to the disease, a mortality rate of six per cent.

Twenty-four of those infected are currently in hospital. Some 288 people are self-isolating at home, while another 216 cases have been resolved (36 per cent), while that status of 31 more cases is still pending.

Some 63 per cent of cases in the region involve women, with 35 per cent of those afflicted being men.

Those over the age of 80 now make up the highest percentage of those afflicted at 25 per cent. People in their 50s make up 18 per cent of the cases, followed by those in their 40s at 13 per cent. The next highest group is those in their 20s (11 per cent), the same percentage as those in their 30s and 60s (11 per cent), followed by those in their 70s (nine per cent). Those under the age of 20 make up one per cent of cases.

The region is monitoring outbreaks at 17 long-term care and retirement homes. There are also four outbreaks at hospitals, the latest being the 5th-floor medicine unit at St. Mary’s General Hospital, which also had outbreaks at on the 3rd and 6th floors. There’s been one outbreak at Grand River Hospital, medicine unit 8A.

“It is similar to what happened previously when they detected clusters of cases on two other units,” said Wang of the new outbreak, noting ongoing surveillance the hospital was able to detect a third cluster of cases in the unit.

Asked about reopening the economy, chief administrative officer Mike Murray said it remains too early to tell what a recovery phase will look like.

“We need to wait to see how directive the province will be on reopening and recovery. [They may be] quite directive, and we will follow their plans. On the other hand, they could be a lot more permissive and allow local municipalities to make their own decisions,” he said.

“People of Waterloo Region should be rest assured that these conversations are going on,” added Chair Karen Redman.

Wellington-Dufferin-Guelph Public Health reported 230 confirmed cases Wednesday, an increase of 11 over the past 24 hours. There have been 15 fatalities. Eighty-three cases have been resolved, with 10 patients in hospital, five in intensive care.

As of Friday morning, the Ministry of Health was reporting 13,519 cases of the novel coronavirus in Ontario, an increase of five per cent over the previous day. There have been 763 deaths attributed to the virus, representing a mortality rate of 5.6 per cent. The ministry reports 7,087 cases (52.4 per cent) have been resolved.

The latest numbers from Health Canada show 42,739 confirmed cases of COVID-19 nationwide, with 2,197 related deaths. Some 643,398 Canadians have been tested for the virus.

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