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Coronavirus levels remain stable in region as school delays push back possible spike

The countdown to an expected spike in COVID-19 cases was expected to begin Tuesday, but delays in starting the school year have pushed that back. Some students are expected in high schools at week’s end, however, with the bulk of kids now slated to return next week.

Just now, the Region of Waterloo is dealing with 34 active cases, coronavirus numbers remaining stable for the time being. There are outbreaks at two long-term care facilities in the region: one resident at A.R. Goudie LTC, and a staff member at Village of University Gates.

The number of new instances of COVID-19 has remained at five or fewer each day for the past week, another indicator of stability. Since the pandemic first arrived in the region, there have been 1,475 cases, of which 1,323 (90 per cent) have been resolved. The number of fatalities has remained at 120 – eight per cent of total cases – for the past couple of weeks

Over the long weekend, testing numbers were significantly lower than usual, with only 195 tests conducted rather than the usual 400-500, possibly due to a delay in information sharing through the testing partners, suggested the region’s medical officer of health, Dr. Hsiu-Li Wang, in a video briefing September 8.

Overall, the region has carried out 72,195 tests for COVID-19. According to Public Health Ontario, the Region of Waterloo’s rate of 252.8 cases per 100,000 population is just below the provincial average of 292.8 per 100,000.

More testing is called for as students return to class, says Wang.

Outbreaks remain an inevitability and are expected to appear on the region’s online dashboard in the next two weeks. Even before school started, there was already a staff member at Waterloo’s Edna Stabler Public School who had tested positive.

When an outbreak occurs at schools, “the classmates, cohort would all be recommended for testing,” said Wang.

To help the school situation, the province announced 20 new public health nurses will be made available to schools. With additional federal funding announced, there will be five more nurses added to that number.

“We began the process as soon as we knew what number we would have. That’s proceeded really quickly in terms of trying to have those nurses hired,” said Wang of the region’s response to new funding. “In the meantime, what we have done is redeployed some of our existing resources, both nurses and inspectors to provide additional support to the schools for reopening. And as we bring on the new nurses, they will continue to be added to the team. And we’ll be able, over the next few weeks, hopefully, to have all our nurses onboard and be able to provide more and more supports to the schools as we onboard them over the next weeks.”

Wang encourages residents to avoid letting their guards down, continuing to follow the Public Health department’s guidelines.

“We also continue to ask everyone in our community to continue to practice frequent hand-washing, physical distancing, avoiding large gatherings, getting tested when you feel unwell, and staying home when you’re sick. Together. These measures and bylaws help us to protect one another and slow the spread of COVID-19 in our community. We also encourage everyone, including students to keep their social circles small, with 10 or less people, continue to practice physical distancing with anyone not in the same circle.”

Not everyone is getting the message, however. During the first week of the month, the region received 64 complaints about potential infractions. Bylaw enforcement followed up on 43 of them, though no charges were laid. Waterloo Regional Police, however, charged three individuals attending a large house party on the Labour Day holiday.

“We are doing this not because we don’t want you to have fun, but because this is not the right thing to do – we are still in a pandemic,” said Wang, stressing that such parties can’t be tolerated.

Neighbouring Wellington-Dufferin-Guelph Public Health reports 15 active cases. Of the total of 566 cases discovered in the catchment area, 514 (90.8 per cent) have been resolved.

The Ministry of Health reported 43,536 cases of the novel coronavirus in Ontario on Wednesday. There have been 2,813 deaths attributed to the virus – just one additional fatality in a week – representing a mortality rate of 6.5 per cent. The ministry reports 39,196 cases (90 per cent) have been resolved.

The latest numbers from Health Canada show 133,748 confirmed cases of COVID-19 nationwide, with 9,153 related deaths, a mortality rate of 6.8 per cent.

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