KITCHENER -- The Region of Waterloo won't move into Step 2 next week with the rest of Ontario.

In a news release on Thursday morning, local officials said they made the decision based on "current data and the prevalence of the Delta variant locally."

“To give our residents more time to be vaccinated, to avoid having to take a step back, and based on our situation at this time, I anticipate the Region of Waterloo will be able to move into Step 2 in mid-July,” Medical Officer of Health Dr. Hsiu-Li Wang said in the release. “This approach gives us the best chance to hold onto the gains we have made.”

Dr. Wang said the region will be better able to predict a move into Step 2 in the coming weeks.

“I fully understand that pausing our move to Step 2 will greatly impact many in our community,” Chair Karen Redman said in the release. “We are in one of the most critical phases of the pandemic locally and this decision is made with the health and safety of all of our community at heart.”

Expanded second dose eligibility expanded in Waterloo Region on Wednesday. Accelerated second doses are available to anyone who received an mRNA vaccine on or before May 30.

More than 75 per cent of residents over the age of 18 have received at least one dose, and 21 per cent are considered fully vaccinated.

"We're going to be watching very closely what's going on in Waterloo to ensure that it doesn't spread in the southwest region. We're also watching Porcupine, North Bay and Grey Bruce. What will get us through is increasing our immunization rates," said Ontario's incoming Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Kieran Moore. "I absolutely hope that our local public health agencies, in partnership with the ministry, can get the Delta activity under control that is slowly increasing in some jurisdictions in Ontario."

“Without the power of the vaccine and without thousands and thousands of our residents getting vaccinated at our clinics, in pharmacies and at family doctors’ offices – our COVID-19 numbers would have grown exponentially over the last few weeks due to the Delta variant,” Dr. Wang said. “Maximizing the number of our residents who get a first and then second dose is our way out, and I urge all residents to get their first and second doses as soon as they are available to them. In addition to the regional clinics, we have over 123 pharmacies in our region giving out vaccine and many family medicine practices doing the same.”

The rest of Ontario will move into Step 2 on June 30. That step includes outdoor gatherings of up to 25 people, indoor gatherings up to five people, expanded capacity in retail stores, and reopening of personal care services as long as face coverings can be worn.

Premier Doug Ford addressed Waterloo Region's reopening delay in a statement on Thursday.

"Today I spoke with Regional Chair Karen Redman and Waterloo Medical Officer of Health Dr. Wang about the ongoing challenges facing the Waterloo Region, particularly their fight against the Delta Variant," Ford said. "The province is doing everything possible to support the Waterloo Region at this time."

He said the province has allocated more than 44,000 additional vaccine doses to the region, along with a mobile team capable of administering more than 500 doses per day in high-priority areas.

"We will continue to be there for the people of Kitchener-Waterloo, and will provide the local public health unit with additional vaccines and resources should they need them," Ford said. "Every day Ontario gets closer and closer to defeating this virus, and we won’t rest until every corner of our province is able to reopen and get back to life as we knew it before COVID-19."

With files from CTV Kitchener's Max Martin.