KITCHENER -- Hospitals in Waterloo Region are making space for ICU beds as admissions rise locally and transfers come in from out of the region.

Lee Fairclough, the hospital lead for Waterloo-Wellington and the president of St. Mary's General Hospital, spoke about expanding the units at the region's COVID-19 briefing on Friday morning.

"The situation for hospitals in Ontario is quite troubling," Fairclough said.

ICU admissions in Ontario reached an all-time high on Friday at 818.

"We are seeing that same trend in our hospitals here in the Region of Waterloo," Fairclough said. "That includes patients that are coming to us as transfers from other regions, but it also includes an increase in patients from our own region needing care."

In the past week, Fairclough said hospitals in Waterloo-Wellington added 14 ICU beds and there are plans to open 12 more in the next week.

Fairclough said 40 per cent of people in Waterloo-Wellington ICUs have tested positive for the disease.

Local hospitals are accepting both ICU and acute transfers from outside of the region.

"We are going to continue to see hospitalization and sadly we're continuing to see some deaths, and the patients that we're caring for are very different than those we cared for in other waves and they need more critical care," Fairclough said.

She added the patients are younger and they are often seeing families.

"It just underscores the need to help to support this community," Fairclough said. "I know everybody's tired of those public health measures, but please, there's no better way to show your support for health-care workers than by wearing a mask and keeping yourself safe."

Fairclough said they are actively look for people to work in the local hospitals to help staff both acute care and ICU beds.

"Every one of those new beds requires people," Fairclough said. "Our most important resource right now in the health system is people who are able to deliver and support that care."

Medical Officer of Health Dr. Hsiu-Li Wang said the situation in Waterloo Region is stabilizing, but remains precarious.

The weekly incidence rate for the region remains at 100 cases per 100,000 people and the reproductive rate is at 1.0, which indicates spread of the disease has slowed.

"We are starting to see the impact of the stay-at-home order in our case rates," Dr. Wang said.

However, she said hospitalizations and deaths are rising now, which are lagging indicators with the disease.

"We can't celebrate too early," she said. "We have to actually really make sure that we're in a state where our ICU beds start to empty."

Officials said people should continue to seek testing if they have symptoms or have been exposed to the disease.

"Testing and identifying positive cases is an essential strategy," Dr. Wang said.


Officials with the vaccination task force said they continue to deal with supply issues, but are still working to get everyone vaccinated as quickly as possible.

The Pinebush clinic in Cambridge will close on April 24 and 25 while they wait for more supply.

People aged 40 and older are able to get the AstraZeneca vaccine at select pharmacies and primary care facilities. Local officials said they've seen an increase in demand for that vaccine since the province lowered the age for eligibility.

Anyone who is contacted to book an appointment is asked to do so as quickly as possible to make sure all appointments are filled.