Waterloo Region's top doc issues enforcement order for Old Order Mennonite communities
KITCHENER -- Region of Waterloo's medical officer of health has issued an order enabling enforcement of public health orders in Old Order Mennonite communities.
The Section 22 Class Order will come into effect immediately in Old Order, Markham, Old Colony and David Martin Mennonite communities. It will allow for enforcement action to help slow the spread of COVID-19, along with prohibiting social gatherings at private residences with people outside of an immediate household.
According to the order there are at least 93 cases of COVID-19 linked to the community as of Monday, along with four outbreaks at workplaces in the area. Seven other workplaces are being monitored due to the disease.
Dr. Hsiu-Li Wang said officials are working with community leaders to close schools and church settings, although they will still allow small funeral services. Those closures will come into effect on Dec. 2.
She called the rise in cases "concerning."
“We have benefited from the support of community leaders and many individual members of these Mennonite communities. Unfortunately, we have encountered insufficient cooperation among a number of individuals with public health requirements, including the requirements to self-isolate, not attend work when sick, and identify high-risk contacts for Public Health,” Dr. Wang said in the news release. “As a result, orders are being issued as the risk to the community as a whole, as well as to other people with whom community members interact, has become too high.”
As of Nov. 30, there have been 202 cases reported in North Wellesley and North Woolwich.
Regional officials said infection rates in the rural areas have reached 1,778 per 100,000 people, compared to a regional rate of 609 per 100,000.
"It's the highest it's ever been," Woolwich Fire Chief Dale Martin said.
Public health officials said some people aren't following requirements, like staying home when sick or identifying high-risk contacts.
"A lot of social gatherings, their church community, so I think that's probably part of the cause for the amount of spread that has happened," Martin said.
The Woolwich Community Health Centre is offering mobile testing for those who have to self-isolate at home.
"So far we have tested over 70 people and we are anticipating doing another 20 (on Wednesday)," Executive Director Rosslyn Bentley said.
Bentley said staff have seen some serious cases in the older population, and they anticipate more positive results.
Martin is hopeful the order will help flatten the curve.
"If it starts costing money, then most people take notice of that, so I'm sure it will have some bearing on it," Martin said.
Anyone not complying with the order could receive a $750 ticket or a summons with fines up to $5,000 per day.
With reporting by CTV News Kitchener's Natalie van Rooy