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Region launches campaign to encourage residents to wear masks

While not yet mandatory, face masks are being promoted by health officials as a way to curb the spread of the coronavirus in Waterloo Region.

Today marked the launch of a social-media campaign, #facemaskfridays, to encourage residents to wear a mask when out in public.

In a video briefing Friday, regional officials opted against a mandatory policy like the one implemented by public health in neighbouring Wellington-Dufferin-Guelph. Issues such as the difficulty of putting the onus on store owners to enforce the policy led to the measures adopted here.

As of today, there have been 1,228 positive cases of COVID-19 in the region since the first instance was found. Of those, 1,037 have been resolved – 84.4 per cent. The virus has proven fatal 115 times, a number unchanged in the past two weeks. About 83 per cent of those cases were in long-term care and retirement homes.

As part of the new campaign, the region is now encouraging residents to take selfies with their masks on when out in public, positing the photos to help spread the word.

“Today, we are launching a social media campaign to reinforce the importance of wearing masks,| said acting associate medical officer of health Dr. Julie Emili.

With phase 3 of the province’s reopening plan on the horizon, regional Chair Karen Redman says the impact of the second level of eased restriction will help with the transition to the next stage.

“Now that Waterloo Region has fully entered into stage 2, we are getting a better idea of what the next reality looks like,” she said, continuing to stress the importance of good hygiene, physical distancing and the wearing of masks.

Redman also attributes the region’ success with phase 2 to the community’s compliance with such measures.

Following the guidance from the province, Redman explained, the region began with education and moved to compliance.

“We have not been heavy in handing out tickets,” she said, noting levels of enforcement are expected to remain relatively the same. However, it remains essential that the public continues following the emergency measures in place.

Two COVID-19 related outbreaks have been added to the Region of Waterloo’s Public Health dashboard as of this morning. The first location is Parkwood Mennonite Retirement Home in Waterloo, where one resident has tested positive. The second location is Sunnyside Home Long Term care, which also has a single positive case of COVID-19 among residents. This now brings the total of active outbreaks at long-term care and retirement homes to three.

Overall, there has been no significant growth in the region’s cases of COVID-19, which Emili attributes to the efforts taken made by citizens in the area.

Next Thursday (June 25), both Redman and Wang will be participating in a “virtual public local town hall’ hosted by the region alongside local businesses from 10:30-11:30 a.m. The meeting will address concerns regarding business in the wake of COVID-19.

Also today, Wellington-Dufferin-Guelph (WDG) Public Health reports of 442 to date. Of those cases, 320  have been resolved showing a recovery rate of 72.4 per cent. There have been 36 deaths in the catchment area.

The Ministry of Health reports 33,095 cases of the novel coronavirus in Ontario, an increase of 0.5 per cent over the previous day. There have been 2,564 deaths attributed to the virus, representing a mortality rate of 7.7 per cent. The ministry reports 28,250 cases (85.4 per cent) have been resolved. The latest numbers from Health Canada show 100,220 confirmed cases of COVID-19 nationwide, with 8,300 related deaths, a mortality rate of  8.3 per cent.

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