KITCHENER -- After the Region of Waterloo and its municipalities declared a state of emergency on Wednesday, many were left wondering what exactly it means.

The announcement comes after Ontario Premier Doug Ford declared a state of emergency on Tuesday, outlawing public events of more than 50 people.

While the declaration is something few people have seen it will essentially give officials more powers during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“This is a crucial time when that behaviour will make an absolute difference over the long run,” said Regional Chair Karen Redman.

According to Redman, this could mean measures such as having bylaw officers go around and make sure that people are staying in their homes, practicing physical distancing, or self-isolating after travel or a COVID-19 diagnosis.

“The legislation is fairly open, it says such actions or make orders that he or she considers necessary that are not contrary to the law and implement the regional emergency response plan,” she said.

These powers could also extend to give the region authority to close additional businesses than have been ordered by the province, but Redman says there are no plans to do so at this time.

“Currently, we are monitoring the huge list that the province sent out so I would say that we will look at that list and potentially it could, but at this juncture we’re not anticipating that.”

The state of emergency will last until the region or individual municipalities chose to revoke it.

“When we see the number of cases level off or start to decline in a way that is significant, that we feel the public is no longer a risk in quite the same way they are currently,” said Redman.

The region says that now was the right time to make the declaration with the number of COVID-19 cases continuing to climb in the region, along with the expected return of March break travelers and snow birds coming home from the south.

On Wednesday, Ontario announced another 100 confirmed cases, pushing the provincial total over 600.