The number of COVID-19 cases remains high in Waterloo Region, but the numbers are starting to stabilize two weeks into the province’s latest lockdown.
The region’s incidence rate has gone unchanged over the last week at around 100 cases per population of 100,000. That continues the trend of remaining better than the provincial average, which stands at 175 cases per 100,000.
Currently, there are 583 active cases of COVID-19 in the region. Of the 83 additional cases that were added on Thursday, 60 were variants of concern, which are the predominant strain in Ontario and in Waterloo Region, public health officials said during Friday’s weekly pandemic briefing.
Lee Fairclough, president of St Mary’s General Hospital and the hospital lead for Waterloo-Wellington, the new variants found in the region – the P.1, also known as the Brazilian variant, and B.188.8.131.52 or South African variant – could rapidly overwhelm local ICUs and general hospital system.
“We know that this new variant spreads fast. That’s what’s happened provincially; we’re at this rate, because this variant spreads faster and so much more easily,” she said. “Even if it’s a few days of that, it can change so fast – that’s what we know with this variant.”
Regional Chair Karen Redman, alongside Fairclough and medical officer of health Dr. Hsiu-Li Wang, encouraged people to seek out testing even if they are only displaying a single symptom, noting that the high rate of transmissibility could further overwhelm the hospital and ICU systems.
Currently, there are 64 individuals hospitalized, 24 in ICU.
“Reducing our mobility, staying home as much as possible only going out for essential purposes and reducing our close contacts are critical to slowing the spread of COVID-19. If you do develop any symptoms, have been exposed to a confirmed case, or have screened positive on our rapid test, please seek testing at one of our local testing centers. Testing and identifying positive cases is an essential strategy in our ability to limit the spread of COVID-19,” she said.
On the enforcement side, Redman said the region has carried out 25 new enforcement actions in the past week.
“The situation in Waterloo Region remains serious. Our hospitals and the provincial health system are extremely strained. I feel the same frustration and recognize the anger that many of the community expressed when they see these unlawful gatherings,” she said of the need for enforcement against the high level of infractions and disregard for public health measures.
Overall, the region has seen 13,675 cases of COVID-19 since the pandemic begin, with 12,820 cases (93.7 per cent) having been declared resolved. There have been 249 fatalities linked to the virus.