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COVID-19 situation growing “dire”

Coronavirus infections visualization shown in a graphical dashboard
Coronavirus infections visualization shown in a graphical dashboard

Region expects more restrictions from province

Still doing better than the province as a whole, Waterloo Region is nonetheless in a dire situation in the battle against COVID-19, says medical officer of health Dr. Hsiu-Li Wang.

There’s plenty to be worried about, she said during Friday’s weekly pandemic briefing.

“My three key highlights for today are, one, our cases in the region have increased rapidly; two, cases of variants of concern are continuing to increase and are now the predominant strains in Waterloo Region as in Ontario; and three, it is imperative that we stay at home and only go out for essential purposes. Each of us needs to do all that we can to help slow the spread, help reduce community transmission and help protect our health-care system.”

As the situation worsens, public health officials have been calling for more measures to help curb the spread. The province is expected to announce more restrictions later today, beyond the current stay-at-home order.

Waterloo Region is currently dealing with 605 active cases of COVID-19, with daily spikes not seen since the high-water mark over the Christmas holiday. Since the start of the pandemic, the region has seen 13,085 cases, of which 12,212 (93.3 per cent) have been resolved. There have been 246 fatalities.

Public Health is monitoring outbreaks in 20 locations, up three since yesterday.

Rates in the region remain below provincial averages, but that’s no reason to be complacent, said Wang.

“Overall in Ontario, the situation is quite dire. Cases are surging with the average incidence rate for Ontario, now at approximately 182 cases per 100,000 per week. This has now exceeded the highest peak of the second wave in Ontario,” said Wang, noting that the region’s incidence rate is 100 per 100,000 per week, the highest it has ever been. 

The region is now seeing an increase in variants of the COVID-19 virus, indentifying all three seen in the province thus far.

“The three variants of concern have all now been detected in Waterloo Region. This week, we received reports of both the B.1.3.5.1 variant that is the variant first detected in South Africa and the P1 one variant that is the variant first detected in Brazil. This is not unexpected: cases of variants of concern are continuing to increase and are now the predominant strains in Waterloo as in Ontario. Viruses constantly changed through mutation and new variants of a virus are expected to occur over time. Sometimes new variants emerge and disappear. Other times, new variants emerge and persist,” said Wang, adding that the public health measures remain the best protection against COVID-19 and its variants. 

Ahead of expected announcements of new provincial restrictions, Wang voiced her support for more action.

“I’m really hoping to hear about additional measures. Nobody wants additional measures – they’re very hard for many people – but the situation that Ontario in is dire. And it will get worse. And so we just all need to pitch in and do everything we can and reduce our mobility even further.”

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