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Virus cases in decline, but public health measures in place

Person washing hands with alcohol gel for disinfection hygiene and protection against CORONAVIRUS (COVID-19) and other diseases

Call it another step on the road to normalcy. Waterloo Region moved into step 3 of the provincial reopening plan July 16, but that doesn’t mean the pandemic is behind us. Restrictions have been eased significantly, but not eliminated.

To that end, regional Chair Karen Redman notes residents must still wear masks, maintain social distancing and continue to elevate vaccination numbers.

After lagging behind other areas, Waterloo Region now has one the highest first dose vaccination rates in Ontario and the number of COVID-19 patients in its hospitals is finally starting to decrease. In the region, 80 per cent of all residents over the age of 12 have received at least one dose of a vaccine, while almost 60 per cent have been fully immunized.

That was greeted as good news by medical officer of health Dr. Hsiu-Li Wang, but she was quick to remind residents that we are not out of the woods yet, as the Delta variant is not expected to slow down any time soon

“Full immunization is our best defense against delta. We’ve had great success, let’s keep moving forward,” said Wang during the weekly pandemic briefing July 16.

The north rural areas of Wellesley are seeing an increase in COVID numbers compared to the rest of the region, which could be a sign of less people being vaccinated.

Currently around 10 per cent of the COVID cases in Ontario are from Waterloo Region.

First dose vaccination walk-ins are available at all regional clinics, Wang noted.

“We will immunize as many children as possible once we are able to do so,” added Wang, hopeful that by September vaccination trials will have happened and children under 12 will be able to get the jab.

“What we are seeing today is that spread is occurring in those groups that are less immunized and including children under the age of 12.”

As kids go to camps over the summer, health officials are starting to see outbreaks, prompting Wang to caution parents to keep their children at home if they’re feeling unwell. In fact, anybody who feels sick should stay home.

Patrick Gaskin, CEO of Cambridge Memorial Hospital, said that as we go into step 3, care partners and visitors to the hospital will still be under tight restrictions.

“Each hospital is working towards improving that – we continue to look and review almost every other day in terms of what our policy is around care partners and visitors. We have a number of options, we have added outdoor visiting as well, we’ve added virtual options and we have bedside options available for that. Each hospital sees the importance of care partners, but wants to work slowly given the situation,” said Gaskin.

“It also struck me the mental health toll it took on our healthcare providers. Everyone’s excited, they want to celebrate – we’ve come to this stage where were opening up more. We have to remember to do it cautiously as we’ve been advised to, but we also have to remember to allow our healthcare providers to heal, to recover and to become whole again. There has been a huge impact on our health care system from COVID and our healthcare providers particularly,” added Gaskin.

At midweek, the number of active cases in Waterloo Region was down to 164, with officials monitoring outbreaks in 12 locations. The number of new cases each day is at the lowest level since early last fall. Since the start of the pandemic, 281 people have succumbed to the virus.

The numbers are significantly lower in neighbouring Wellington-Dufferin-Guelph, where  there were just 37 active case at midweek.

That catchment area’s cumulative total was 8,272, of which 8,109 (98 per cent) have been resolved. There have been a total of 126 fatalities since the pandemic began.

The province continues to see growth in the total number of cases, though at a much slower pace, with the tally now at 548,474, up less than a thousand in the past week.

There have been 9,296 deaths attributed to the virus, representing a mortality rate of 1.7 per cent. The ministry reports 537,824 cases (98.1 per cent) have been resolved.

The latest numbers from Health Canada show 4,600 active cases nationwide, down almost 1,000 from a week earlier. The cumulative total of confirmed cases now stands at 1,424,220, with 26,508 related deaths, a mortality rate of 1.8 per cent.

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