Region steps up enforcement under lockdown rules
Facing an increase in COVID-19 cases, the Region of Waterloo is stepping up enforcement efforts when residents fail to comply with lockdown rules.
“We continue to see high numbers of new cases every day.” She said, “With multiple outbreaks in workplace and congregate care settings being declared daily, continued hospitalizations, ICU admissions, and deaths are incidents incidence rate is at its highest to date,” said medical officer of health Dr. Hsiu-Li Wang in a briefing Friday.
The region is seeing 160 case per 100,000 population each week, up from 92 cases in late-December.
“Taking into account interim data, our latest per cent positivity has increased to 5.5 per cent. Our latest reproductive rate has increased to 1.3. These indicators show that we are experiencing an acceleration in the spread of COVID-19 in our community following the holiday season,” she added.
The number of active cases continues to climb each day, with 942 on Friday. That brings the cumulative total past 7,000. There has also been an increase in the number of fatalities, which now stand at 174.
The numbers indicate high transmission levels, with 34 active outbreaks spread out among long-term care facilities, retirement homes and workplace settings.
“As community spread increases, we expect to see an associated increase in the number of employees who acquire COVID and the number of outbreaks declared in workplace settings. In the second wave, workplace settings have become among the most frequent settings experiencing outbreaks across Ontario. And it’s the same for Waterloo Region. We currently have 13 active outbreaks, and they are there are a total of 135 workplaces with at least one worker who has tested positive when there’s an outbreak declared,” said Wang.
“An outbreak is declared when there have been two or more confirmed cases in a workplace setting with an epidemiological link within a 14-day period, where at least one of the cases could have reasonably acquired their infection within the workplace setting.”
Long-term care and retirement homes account for 20 of the outbreaks and 236 cases.
Many of the active cases today are the result of residents disregarding public health measures, said Wang.
“There has been a resurgence of cases following the holidays provincially as well as locally,” she noted, adding that the increase in cases is not an indicator that the lockdown is failing. “It is an indication that we can’t rely on them alone. Without a provincial shutdown, case rates and spread would have been even higher. We are approaching the two-week mark of the shutdown. Until that point, our case rates are reflective of the interactions people have had two weeks prior.”
Stepping up enforcement, the region and police issued 22 tickets and six court summons between December 28 and January 6. Charges ranged from repeat offenders operating when deemed a non-essential business and private gatherings, as well as six summons to the elders at Trinity Bible Chapel on Lobsinger Line.
On Thursday, regional bylaw officials laid charges against the Woolwich Township church and its officials for exceeding the limit of 10 people for an indoor gathering. The move followed charges laid last month by Waterloo Regional Police.
That such steps were necessary was disappointing, said regional Chair Karen Redman.
“Although we cannot comment specifically about these charges as they are before the courts, I will say how deeply disappointed I am in addition to the mayor of Woolwich and many regional councillors and residents who voice their frustration at this display of civil disobedience. Regional staff are working with provincial legislation and are considering all options for the next steps.”
In terms of reducing transmission going forward, Wang notes that’s possible with adherence to public health guidelines.
“In addition to the provincial shutdown measures, all Waterloo Region residents need to avoid social gatherings only gather with those within our household, or one other exclusive household. If we live alone, and only go out for essential purposes.”