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Region eases into reopening of economy, but most regulations remain in force

While some parts of the country are more reopening more aspects of their economies, the Region of Waterloo is dipping its toe into the pool as of today (Monday), allowing a limited number of businesses to resume.

“Certain businesses and workplaces will be open as long as they comply with strict public health measures and operate safely during the COVID-19 outbreak. Those permitted to start-up today, May 4, include seasonal businesses like garden centres and some essential construction projects,” said regional Chair Karen Redman in a video briefing this morning.

The new rules are in keeping with the loosening of regulations outlined by the province on Friday, the first easing of mandatory closures for non-essential businesses declared March 23 by Premier Doug Ford.

On May 1, the province issued details on the safe reopening of business for employees and customers. Some businesses, including golf courses and marinas, are permitted to open for preparation in anticipation of an economical launch.

“What we all are looking for is compliance with the guidance the province is providing,” said Mike Murray, the region’s chief administrative officer, of the transition to reopening the economy.

Community gardens are also permitted to open – there are more than 80 community gardens in Waterloo Region. To comply, such site much include access to hand washing or hand sanitizer,  and physical distancing rules much be enforced.

Overall in the region, the number of people with COVID-19 hit 817, of which 87 cases have been fatal, an 11 per cent mortality rate.

Thirty-nine of those infected in the region are currently in hospital. Some 325 people (40 per cent) are self-isolating at home, while another 360 cases have been resolved (44 per cent), while that status of six more cases is still pending.

“In regards to overall trends, sadly, we continue to see COVID-related deaths to a date – a total of 87 people have passed away in our community. I wish to express my deepest condolences to all the families, friends and caregivers, including those in the homes who have lost loved ones due to COVID-19,” said acting medical officer of health Dr. Hsiu-Li Wang.

The region appears to be behind the curve of areas such as the GTA because they started their trajectory earlier than was the case here, she added.

About a quarter of those afflicted have been over the age of 80, while those in their 50s is the second-largest group at 18 per cent of cases. That’s followed by people in their 40s (13 per cent), 20s (12 per cent), 30s (11 per cent), 60s (11 per cent) and 70s (nine per cent). Those under the age of 20 account for just one per cent of cases. Some 63 per cent of cases in the region involve women, with 36 per cent of those afflicted being men.

As measured by cases per 100,000 residents, the region reports a rate of 132.2, 80.4 of those cases involving residents of facilities such as long-term care homes. For Woolwich, that number is 168.4, also elevated by group-home numbers, which account for about 80 per cent of the cases. In Wellesley, the number is 51.8, of which half are cases within facilities.

The region is monitoring outbreaks at 15 long-term care and retirement homes, this week adding “congregate outbreak settings” to its Public Health dashboard recording COVID-19 data. The data reflect figures from a wider range of facilities such as supported-living settings and group homes for those with disabilities. The numbers are aggregated to protect the privacy of individuals, as many facilities have a small number of residents and staff, the region notes.

One of the three new facilities added to the list is Twin Oaks long-term care of Maryhill. The 31-bed home declared an outbreak yesterday after one staff member tested positive for the coronavirus. 

With the changes announced today, Redman included a warning: “Although certain business are permitted to reopen, it’s critical that people continue to stay home practice physical distancing and only go out for essential reasons. It is through these simple actions that the region is making progress in stopping the spread of COVID-19.”

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