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Number of new COVID-19 cases remains steady; province proposes slow reopening

The region of Waterloo’s top doctor pleads for vigilance and continued compliance as outdoor recreation opened over the weekend, a baby step in the province’s reopening plan. 

Dr. Hsiu-Li Wang, the region’s medical officer of health, addressed the provincial reopening of outdoor recreation facilities such as golf courses and sports fields, as well as the province’s new roadmap to reopening plan at the weekly pandemic briefing May 21.

Wang is urging residents to continue with close contact only between household members, but if they choose to expand that group to gather outside only, and with no more than five people.

“The province announced a three-step plan to reopen safely and cautiously. We know what we need to do to get there. We are at a critical moment to let up now and relax our precautions too quickly would put all our gains at risk,” she said.

“If you choose to gather with others outside of your household up to the legally permissible limit of five people, only gather outdoors. Maintain six feet of distance from those who you do not live with, and wear face coverings. Do not gather indoors. Your actions do make a difference. And a better, brighter future is in our hands.”

Announced ahead of the long weekend, the new provincial plan entails three steps. Rather than a colour-coded system, it is based on sectors and safety levels and vaccination rollout.

“We continue to make progress on our fighting of COVID-19. While now is not yet the moment to reopen the province, today, we are releasing our roadmap to reopen. The roadmap represents a way out of the pandemic and provides a clear path forward on what will be carefully and safely reopened and when it includes three steps based on the province-wide vaccination rate and improvements in key public health and health care indicators,” said deputy premier Christine Elliott.

The first level anticipated to be reached around June 14 requires 60 per cent of adults to have received at least one dose of vaccine. Level one will see an increase of outdoor gatherings back up to 10 people, essential retail able to open at 25 per cent capacity, non-essential retail at 15 per cent, outdoor religious services under capacity limits and physical distancing (two metres), outdoor sports, training and personal training for up to 10 people, Day camps, campsites and campgrounds, Ontario parks, outdoor horse racing and motor speedways, outdoor pools, splash pads and wading pools all open up.

Moving to the second phase would require at least 21 days to pass, with 70 per cent of adults required to have one of their shots and 20 per cent fully vaccinated. This will allow for outdoor gatherings up to 25, indoor groups up to five, outdoor dining up to six per table, essential retail at half capacity, personal care services with mandatory face covering, outdoor meeting and event spaces, outdoor amusement parks and water parks, outdoor boat tour operators, outdoor county fairs and rural exhibitions, outdoor sports leagues and events, outdoor cinemas, performing arts, live music events and attractions.

After at least 21 more days, with 70-80 per cent of adults receiving one dose of the vaccine, and 25 per cent fully vaccinated, a continued easing of restrictions could be possible on the way to reopening.

Reopening will require a reduction in the number of daily new cases of COVID-19 and fewer hospitalizations.

Those numbers are down slightly in Waterloo Region, continuing to fluctuate.

At midweek, there were 430 active cases of COVID-19 in the region, down from 502 a week earlier, with outbreaks being monitored in just seven locations. There were 31 people hospitalized by the virus, with the death toll at 256, an increase of one in the past week.

In Wellington-Dufferin-Guelph, there were 250 active case, down from 264 a week earlier.

That catchment area’s cumulative total was 7,825 of which 7,462 (95.4 per cent) have been resolved. There have been a total of 113 fatalities since the pandemic began, two more than last week’s report.

The province continues to see growth in the total number of cases, though at a slower pace, with the tally now at 524,950, up some 11,000 in the past week.

There have been 8,655 deaths attributed to the virus – up 313 in the past week – representing a mortality rate of 1.6 per cent. The ministry reports 497,269 cases (94.7 per cent) have been resolved.

The latest numbers from Health Canada show 47,866 active cases nationwide, down about 17,000 from a week earlier. The cumulative total of confirmed cases now stands at 1,365,516, with 25,018 related deaths , a mortality rate of 1.8 per cent.

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