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Health officials remain wary despite decline in cases

As people start to get back in the swing of things and restaurants reopen for what may be the fourth or fifth time in the last two years, Waterloo Region public health officials want residents to be cautious, as hospitals are still feeling the weight of the Omicron wave.

“While the Omicron variant remains a threat, I strongly advise residents to gradually and cautiously resume their activities, while following public health precautions. Residents should remain cautious as the province loosens restrictions, as Omicron continues to circulate at high levels,” said medical officer of health Dr. Hsiu-Li Wang, during Friday’s weekly pandemic briefing.

“Our local hospitals continue to be under significant pressure. Hospitalizations and ICU admissions may increase as restrictions ease. A third dose of the COVID-19 vaccine greatly reduces the risk of serious outcomes and reduces the strain on our healthcare system.”

Still, the downward trend in active COVID-19 cases in the region continued this week, with some 1,175 reported at midweek, down from 1,600 a week earlier.

Public health officials are monitoring outbreaks at 47 locations, down from 64.

Wang noted the risk of resurgences as the province reopens is difficult to predict. Residents are being reminded to get their first, second or third dose of vaccines to prevent them from getting seriously ill or ending up in one of the local hospitals. Residents are also being advised to continue following other public health precautions such as wearing a mask and physically distancing.

“We are confirming more clinics across our region, and we will continue to focus on townships in the month of February,” said Vickie Murray, director of the vaccine rollout for the Waterloo Region in the same update.

The region is prioritizing townships for the month of February to help residents that may be too far away from mass immunization clinics to access the vaccines easily. This week they were at Woolwich Memorial Centre in Elmira from Monday to Wednesday. There will be a vaccination clinic at Breslau Community  Centre on Family Day weekend, February 21-23.

“I think we’re just really taking a look at our region as a whole and wanting to make sure that a vaccine is accessible to everyone where they are. We know there are some people who need the vaccine to come closer to them and that’s why we’re really trying to ramp up those outreach options,” said Murray.

Some 88.5 per cent of eligible residents have had at least one dose of vaccine, with 84.1 per cent fully vaccinated. Of children under the age of 12, 54.5 per cent had their first dose and 28.7 per cent had both doses.

“Although children tend to have milder symptoms, one child being admitted to hospital with serious COVID illness is one too many. With millions of children having received the COVID-19 vaccine across the world, we know that the COVID vaccine is safe and effective, and it will help keep our children safe,” said Murray.

As with the region, the number of cases has dropped in Wellington-Dufferin-Guelph, with 424 active cases, down from 590 seven days earlier. There have been 153 fatalities associated with the virus, 12 in the past week.

Public health there reports 85.8 per cent of eligible residents have been fully inoculated, with 59.3 having had a booster shot.

For children between the ages of 5 and 11, 57.3 per cent have had at least one dose, with 32.2 per cent having been fully vaccinated.

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