Waterloo Public Health asks province to move region to orange restrict level

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A week after the region moved to yellow protect in the province’s COVID-19 pandemic restriction system, Waterloo Public Health says it has asked the province to move into the orange restrict level which would place further restrictions on the area.

“Given the continual increase in our cases and complexity of outbreaks over the past week, we have met the indicators in the orange restrict category of the provincial framework,” Dr. Julie Emili of Waterloo Public Health said Friday.

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Over the past week, Waterloo Public Health has reported 282 new positive tests for the coronavirus and Emili said the region has reached other benchmarks that push it toward the orange zone, including a weekly incident rate of 46 cases per 100,000. Other benchmarks include percent a positivity of 3.6 per cent and a reproductive rate of 1.5.

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“We have observed an increase in outbreaks in multiple settings and sectors with outbreaks in long-term-care and retirement homes, workplaces, congregate care settings and other community settings,” Emili said.

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She says while there are only five COVID-19-related hospitalizations at the moment, they tend to occur further down the road with the virus.

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“This is a lagging indicator, meaning that there is often a delay between when someone tests positive and when they experience severe illness requiring hospital care,” Emili explained.

“Our hospitals are also reporting high occupancy levels, meaning that a shift in hospitalizations for COVID-19 would have significant impacts.”

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Regional Chair Karen Redman says if the move to orange is approved by the province, they will take effect on Monday.

Although Waterloo Public Health could make the move independently, they may receive less provincial funding in doing so.

“When the province puts us in that category, there is access to some funding that wouldn’t necessarily be there if we were moving out of synch with what the province directed,” Redman said.

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Emili says the new restrictions will place put new guidelines in place for restaurants and personal services.

She says the restrictions would limit indoor capacity to 50 people, further restrict operating hours, require the screening of patrons through a questionnaire, limit to a maximum of four people seated together and prohibit personal care services that require removing a face covering.

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Emili is also suggesting businesses be prepared for further restrictions going forward.

“We recommend that businesses make plans for each level of the framework because as we have seen, as cases accelerate, we can quickly move into the next level of measures,” she said.

Waterloo Public Health is also considering new measures for long-term care homes.

“We are also looking to add recommendations for long-term care and retirement home settings, including discontinuing indoor visits by general visitors, and limiting all indoor visits with residents to one essential visitor,” Emili said.

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