It’s been two years since the COVID-19 pandemic was declared and the first lockdown in Ontario flipped everyday life upside down. After last week’s lifting of many of the indoor restrictions in public settings, businesses in the region are remaining cautiously optimistic as they try to get back to pre-pandemic operations.
The region has seen active COVID case numbers trend downwards for the last couple of weeks.
“Thank you to community members for getting vaccinated and for your continued kindness towards each other. While data is trending in the right direction, the pandemic is not over – many in our community are still grappling with the impacts of the virus,” regional Chair Karen Redman said Friday during the weekly pandemic briefing.
The region at midweek had 467 active cases, with outbreaks being monitored in seven locations. In the past week, the death toll since the pandemic began reached 400.
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“It is because of the many sacrifices that residents have made throughout the pandemic we are able to gradually lift measures. We won’t know the impacts of the March 1 lifting of measures until around mid-March,” said Dr. Hsiu-Li Wang, medical officer of health for the region. “Although we are still trending in the right direction, we need to be cautious at this time. Our effort as a community to fight COVID-19 together has saved many lives and reduced social disruption. Thank you to our community for your continued efforts.”
Businesses across the region are steadily returning to more-normal levels of activity, though many of them struggle with financial losses over the last two years due to continuous lockdowns and other restrictions. It’s been a tough stretch, UpTown Waterloo BIA executive director Tracy Van Kalsbeek told briefing participants.
“The last few years have been extremely difficult for small businesses and painful for all of us across the region. It’s definitely left a lot of us drained, divided and emotional disconnected. The announcement of the restrictions lifting is certainly something the BIAs are very happy about; it makes sense with all the vaccination, as well as fewer people in the hospitals. It’s definitely going to make an impact on our local economy. We’ve been hearing from businesses that they’re fatigued. There’s been a staffing impact, too,” she said.
Waterloo Region is seeing small increases in vaccination over the last couple of weeks as vaccination clinics continue to wind down. At midweek, the region was reporting 89 per cent of eligible residents had received at least one dose of vaccine, while 85 per cent were fully vaccinated. Some 54 per cent of eligible residents had been given a booster shot.
In Wellington-Dufferin-Guelph, Public Health reported 90.1 per cent of eligible residents had received at least a first dose, with 87 per cent with two doses and 61.9 per cent boosted.
At midweek, that catchment area had 273 active cases of COVID-19, reporting a cumulative 161 fatalities since the pandemic began.