COVID-19 'circulating widely' in Waterloo Region as local cases trend upwards: Dr. Wang
Waterloo Region's medical officer of health says COVID-19 cases are trending upwards in the area, following a pattern seen in other communities around Ontario.
"We are entering a period of heightened risk over the next several weeks and few months due to more indoor gatherings and greater circulation of COVID-19," Dr. Hsiu-Li Wang said at the region's weekly COVID-19 update on Friday morning. "All residents should consider COVID-19 to be circulating widely in the community now."
Waterloo Region's weekly case rate now sits at 34 cases per 100,000 people.
VACCINES FOR CHILDREN UNDER 12
Health Canada approved the Pfizer vaccine for children between the ages of five to 11 on Friday morning.
The region's vaccine lead, Vickie Murray, said there's a chance they'll be able to start booking appointments for children in that age group as early as next week once the children's vaccines are distributed by the province.
"I would like to ask that people do not rush to the vaccine clinics now, today, because the Health Canada approval has been announced, as we do not have the children's vaccine here in our community freezers yet," Murray said.
An announcement will be made as soon as appointments are available for children. Vaccines will be administered at clinics, pharmacies and primary care providers.
Currently, the region is only booking appointments two weeks in advance so they can be prepared for when children are eligible to receive the vaccine.
"I realize that this is frustrating as people are trying to book ahead and plan ahead and book appointments in December and there are just no appointments available yet," Murray said. "I would like to ask and encourage anyone who has been trying to book an appointment in December to be patient with our scheduling system and our process. Now that children's vaccine is approved, it will be a priority to give as many first doses as possible as quickly as possible."
Second and third doses are only available through appointments at this time, but walk-ins are available for first doses. Children between five and 11 will need to book an appointment to receive a first dose.
MASKING AND VENTILATION
Dr. Wang reiterated the importance of masks and ventilation to help prevent further spread of COVID-19 in the community.
She reminded residents that masks are important even for people who are fully vaccinated.
"We all wished that once we got a lot of people in our community immunized that we wouldn't have to take some of these public health measures, especially if we've been fully immunized," Dr. Wang said. "However, when there is widespread COVID in our community, COVID will more easily infect those who are unvaccinated, but it can also infect those who are vaccinated."
Dr. Wang added a lot of their case and contact tracing has shown spread of the disease between people who are gathering outside of their households without proper measures in place.
"Now is not the time to lift those measures that have helped protect us for so long, especially with Delta because it's more transmissible," Dr. Wang said.
She encouraged people to wear a well-fitting mask in any indoor setting when gathering with others outside of their household.
The region's COVID-19 case and vaccination dashboards will both be updated Friday to include a larger population, reflecting the number listed in the 2020 Statistics Canada census.
Officials said it will represent a population increase of 16,354 people. The change includes non-permanent residents, like university students who may have returned to Waterloo Region this year for school.
"As a result, what you will see on the dashboard this afternoon is that some of our case rates will decrease slightly as a result of this slightly larger population denominator," Dr. Wang said.
The population from the census data was 605,232 people in Waterloo Region.
Vaccine coverage by age group will also be updated to reflect age cohorts based on year of birth.
Regional Chair Karen Redman reported three enforcement actions at Friday's update.
Vita Lounge and Bistro in Kitchener was issued an $880 ticket for failing to comply with a continued order under the Reopening Ontario Act.
Bylaw officers in the City of Waterloo issued a ticket at a private residence for $880.
Finally, Region of Waterloo corporate security handed out a $240 ticket for someone failing to wear a face covering at 150 Main St. in Cambridge.