Waterloo Region could see 'significantly higher' than 260 cases of COVID-19 per day by mid-December: public health
KITCHENER -- Waterloo Region's top doctor didn't mince words as she provided an update on the status of COVID-19 on Monday afternoon.
Medical Officer of Health Dr. Hsiu-Li Wang said that the region is "one of the fastest surging areas in Ontario," and that the region could surpass 260 cases per day by mid-December.
"As many of us likely heard through headlines, by mid-December, Ontario could see 6,500 cases per day, which would equate to, proportionately, around 260 cases a day in Waterloo Region if we do not grow faster than the province," she said during the virtual meeting.
"Unfortunately right now, we are. We are surging and our case growth is outpacing that of the province as a whole, so we could see significantly higher numbers than that."
REGION IS HEADED TOWARDS LOCKDOWN
The region moved into the orange zone on Monday, but last week officials said businesses should prepare to move into the red zone in the near future.
On Monday, two of the region's key COVID-19 indicators remained past the threshold that would move the region to the red zone. Public health officials said Friday that the region could escalate to that zone as early as this week.
The positivity rate in Waterloo Region remained at 3.6 per cent on Monday, while its reproductive estimate stayed put at 1.5 new infections per case. The criteria for a region to enter the red zone is a positivity rate of 2.5 per cent or more and a reproductive estimate of 1.2 or higher.
Public health officials also said last week that the region's weekly incidence rate had reached 46 cases per 100,000 people, a number that would also qualify the region to be put into the red zone.
Dr. Wang suggested that the region is actually heading beyond that, saying that, without immediate individual measures, Waterloo Region will eventually go into a lockdown.
"We are speeding fully to the red zone. If we do not make major changes now, we will continue towards the lockdown zone," Dr. Wang said during a follow-up media briefing on Monday.
"Starting today, we need to dramatically reduce our social interactions."
She urged all local residents to protect their community by staying home except for essential purposes like getting groceries or for medical reasons. She asked people not to spend time with those outside of their immediate households including friends, extended family and co-workers.
Essential purposes also include essential exercise, school and work.
Dr. Wang said that provincial officials will be reviewing our situation this week and that they are "well aware" of where the region's parameters stand. Still, she said that the region had to fully move into the orange zone before being placed into the red zone.
MORE CASES LEAD TO MORE HOSPITALIZATIONS, DEATHS
During the media briefing on Monday, Dr. Wang said that she understood why some people may not consider the second wave as serious as the first because hospitalizations are down.
She noted though that, with an increase in case rates, hospitalizations and deaths can climb quickly
"We have 11 on our dashboard but we have a number of new admissions that are occurring today, and so our dashboard is going to be updated again tomorrow, and they're going to show that our hospitalization has essentially tripled over the last, I would say 72 hours or so," she said.
As more people get sick, there is a greater chance that people who are high-risk will get sick, be hospitalized or die.
She also took the opportunity on Monday afternoon to remind people that the only serious outcome from COVID-19 is not death.
"People can not only get seriously ill but they can have lasting effects, even when they're young," she said. These cases have been well-documented in people who fought the disease for months, called "long-haulers."
SHIFTING TO ENFORCEMENT
Regional Chair Karen Redman said they've asked bylaw officials to move from education to enforcement when it comes to public health orders.
"We take this very seriously and workplace spread seems to be one of the places where the pandemic is spreading," she said.
She said the pivot to enforcement includes area bylaw officers, regional bylaw officers and public health inspectors.
"For the next few weeks, we have a provincial multi-ministry team of almost 30 provincial offences officers across the region to carry out enforcement of high-risk businesses that were seeing spread because people are letting their guards down," Redman said.
The officers will augment the activities of current local inspectors, Redman said.