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Health officials see reason for optimism in coronavirus situation

As the economy reopens and more of us emerge from the coronavirus-lockdown, the numbers add to the sense of optimism: there have been relatively few new cases of COVID-19 in Waterloo Region, and there are just 110 active cases as of today (Friday).

Since the first cases were reported, there have been 1,152 in the region, 927 of which have been resolved (80 per cent). 

The region has seen 115 coronavirus-related fatalities, more than 80 per cent reported in long-term care and retirement homes. Even those institutional outbreaks are on the decline, with the Public Health department monitoring just five locations; 33 others have  declared their outbreaks to be over.

While testing has increased, with some resultant bump in the number of cases, the percentage of those testing positive has decreased to 5.6 per cent.

Taken together, the signs are promising, indicating region is ready for phase 2 of the provincial reopening plan, suggested acting medical officer of health Dr. Hsiu-Li Wang at todayโ€™s video briefing.

โ€œOverall, we are in a much better place than our peak in April. Our goal going forward is to keep levels low,โ€ she said.

Though the numbers put the region in good territory, health officials maintain that itโ€™s crucial to follow precautionary measures and protocols such as hand washing and sanitization, as well as wearing facial covering when in areas where social distancing may be difficult.

The numbers are improving, but the region continues to provide more information on its online dashboard tracking the COVID-19 outbreak. A recent addition is an outbreak at the Global Egg plant in Elmira, where 21 people tested positive for the virus. The company is working with Public Health, as is the case with pre-existing cases at Conestoga Meat Packers in Breslau.

The region is also monitoring for any surge in cases following a mass demonstration in Kitchener Wednesday in support of Black Lives Matter. The march was entirely peaceful, but did bring many people in close proximity to one another.

As an outdoor event, the potential for spreading the virus was less than if the crowd had been indoors, Wang noted. She also praised many of the participants for wearing masks.

Regional chair Karen Redman added she was grateful that there was a live-stream option for people wanting to show their support of the cause and protect themselves and others from the potential spread of the virus.

The protest was allowed to proceed, though enforcement has been carried out in other circumstances, said Mike Murray, the regionโ€™s chief administrative officer.

In the past week, police and bylaw enforcement officers visited 161 sites where education or warnings were provided. There were also another 227 site visits where no action was required, and three new charges for defying the provincial state of emergency. Two of the charges were related to gatherings of more than five people, and the third levied on a Kitchener hair salon for failing to comply with the essential services listed issued by the province.

โ€œEmergency orders are still in effectโ€ฆ [they] are still being enforced. There is a gradual opening up that is happening, but people need to keep in mindโ€ฆ to be aware of what the emergency orders [are] and do everything they can to comply with them,โ€ said Murray.

Wellington-Dufferin-Guelph (WDG) Public Health continues to keep their numbers low, with only a total of 395 to date. Of those cases, 282  have been resolved showing a recovery rate of 71.4 per cent. There have been 35 deaths in the catchment area.

The Ministry of Health reports 29,747 cases of the novel coronavirus in Ontario, an increase of 1.2 per cent over the previous day. There have been 2,372 deaths attributed to the virus, representing a mortality rate of eight per cent. The ministry reports 23,583 cases (79.3 per cent) have been resolved.

The latest numbers from Health Canada show 94,059 confirmed cases of COVID-19 nationwide, with 7,652 related deaths, a mortality rate of  8.1. per cent.

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