An outbreak of COVID-19 at a St. Jacobs retirement home prompted the province to step in November 22. St. Mary’s General Hospital has taken over at Village Manor.
The move followed an outbreak of 22 cases among residents and staff. Three of the infected are currently in hospital.
“We’ve certainly seen this kind of an outbreak in these kinds of care settings before. And we’re going to be working very hard to ensure the safety of those staff and the residents that are there. And also, you know, really tried to reduce any impact to the community of the virus,” said St. Mary’s president Lee Fairclough.
The St. Jacobs cases are part of a surge in Waterloo Region. At midweek, there were 385 active cases in the region, with 16 outbreak sites, only two of which were long-term care homes. The number of new cases was up by about 40 from a week ago, a marked slowing from the 50 per cent jump the week before. Twenty-four people are currently hospitalized, with 10 people in intensive care.
The total number since the pandemic began rose to 3,139, of which 2,631 have been resolved, a recovery rate of 84 per cent.
The increase has pushed the region into the red category, bringing further restrictions this week to slow the spread of the virus.
“We are still firmly overall in the red category,” said medical officer of health Dr. Hsiu-Li Wang.
The move up the scale from “orange” means gatherings limited to 10 people indoors and 25 people outdoors. Capacities will lowered to 30 per cent for religious services, weddings, and funerals, among other measures.
The numbers dictated the changes, said regional Chair Karen Redman.
“I’ve heard Dr. Wang’s concerns about continued increase in cases and outbreaks in Waterloo Region, and I want to emphasize that our numbers now indicate we’re moving to the red level of the province’s COVID-19 response framework. This will move us from orange or district level to the red control level,” she said, noting she has been in touch with Minister Christine Elliot’s office to show the area’s support of moving up to the red level.
“As we learn more about these new measures and changes that are required for Waterloo Region businesses, we will work with public health to get the information to those impacted by the changes as soon as possible,” Redman added.
With increased vigilance comes increased enforcement of rules. The region has seen no new charges laid in the past week, but provincial teams conducted 212 site visits, with contraventions found in 57 settings under the provincial reopening framework.
Between November 12 and 18, regional bylaw and public health inspectors responded to 136 calls or emails and carried out 28 site visits. A summons was issued on November 10 to a Cambridge restaurant.
Fairclough noted hospitals may have to reduce their services if cases continue to grow.
“When there’s this much spread, it will affect more vulnerable populations. We have already started seeing that now with the increase in hospitalizations – it will eventually impact more care homes, regardless of all the measures that we’ve put in place.”
Now more than ever it’s important to adhere to public health guidelines, said Wang.
“Each time we are in close contact without physical distancing or wearing a face covering, that is an opportunity for COVID-19 to spread,” she said, asking people not to attend social gatherings such as birthday parties, play dates, sleepovers and other casual hangouts or events.
In neighbouring Wellington-Dufferin-Guelph, there were 150 active cases at midweek. That catchment area’s cumulative total was 1,263, of which 1,074 (85 per cent) have been resolved. There have been a total of 39 fatalities since the pandemic began.
The province is still dealing with a spike as the total number jumped to 107,883. There have been 3,554 deaths attributed to the virus, representing a falling mortality rate of 3.3 per cent. The ministry reports 91,550 cases (84.9 per cent) have been resolved.
The latest numbers from Health Canada show 57,435 active cases, bringing the total to 342,444 confirmed cases of COVID-19 nationwide, with 11,618 related deaths, a mortality rate of 3.4 per cent.