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Public Health urges caution as reopening continues; case numbers remain stable

Precautions against the spread of the virus have to be the “new normal” if the region is to avoid a surge in COVID-19 cases, according to Waterloo Region’s acting medical officer of health, Dr. Hsiu-Li Wang.

Lower numbers have remained stable for the past couple of weeks, with small increases largely attributed to more testing, she said in a video briefing Tuesday.

“Testing has detected an increased number of cases, but that was to be expected,” said Wang of the expanded testing mandated by the provincial government. Some 24,000 tests have been carried out in the region, with about five per cent of those returning positives.

At midweek, the total number of cases stood at 1,221, of which 1,020 have been resolved, a clearance rate of 84 per cent. The death toll has remained at 115, with 95 of the lives lost at long-term care and retirement homes.

Outbreaks of COVID-19 had been recorded at 39 such institutional settings in the region, but as of today Public Health is monitoring just one facility. Such outbreaks ranged from just one positive test to the hardest hit spot, Forest Heights Revera LTC in Kitchener, where 247 cases were discovered – 178 residents and 69 staff – and 51 people lost their lives.

“Overall, we are in a much better place than we were during our peak in April. But the risk is still present in our community,” said Wang, stressing that pandemic is not over.

With new cases reported every day, COVID-19 continues to circulate in the community, as witnessed by increased testing. 

“As restrictions are lifted and more people interact with others, we can expect to see more cases reported.” Cases are likely to spread in workplace locations, as well as childcare facilities.

Among the daycare centres preparing to reopen is the Elmira Childcare Centre, though there are some hurdles to be cleared, said chief administrative officer Mike Muarry.

“That centre is complicated since it located in a school. We have to make arrangements with the school to get access to the site and work around other people that are accessing the school property,” he said.

All the childcare locations operated by the region will now be operating at around 50 per cent capacity. “What this will mean is we will have higher costs and lower revenues.”

Tuesday briefing, part of a regional council session, touched on making the wearing of masks mandatory, in line with a directive implemented in neighbouring Wellington-Dufferin-Guelph, where masks are requiring in public locations such as stores and transit.

Both Wang and Murray recommended the wearing of masks, but that will not be made mandatory for the time being.

“Some of us cannot wear masks; ideally, the vast majority of us will wear masks when we are in close proximity to others,” said Wang.

Despite loosened restrictions that expand gatherings to up to 10 people, Wang recommends that we continue to avoid social gatherings. The state of emergency remains in effect until June 30, which means compliance, education, and enforcement are still actively being carried out throughout the region.

At midweek, the Wellington-Dufferin-Guelph (WDG) Public Health reported 428 cased of COVID-19 to date. Of those cases, 315  have been resolved showing a recovery rate of 73.5 per cent. There have been 35 deaths in the catchment area, a number unchanged in the past couple of weeks.

The Ministry of Health reports 32,744 cases of the novel coronavirus in Ontario, an increase of 0.6 per cent over the previous day. There have been 2,550 deaths attributed to the virus, representing a mortality rate of 7.8 per cent. The ministry reports 27,784 cases (84.9 per cent) have been resolved.

The latest numbers from Health Canada show 99,467 confirmed cases of COVID-19 nationwide, with 8,213 related deaths, a mortality rate of  8.3 per cent.

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