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COVID-19 variants of concern spreading in Waterloo Region

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The number of variant COVID-19 cases in Waterloo Region is quickly climbing but this fact is not a surprise to Waterloo Region’s Medical Officer Dr. Hsiu-Li Wang.

“Provincial modeling projects that variants will become the predominant strain in March,” the region’s top doctor told the Board of Health on Wednesday night. “The percentage of our cases that are variants will increase over time.”

Read more: Coronavirus pandemic ‘likely’ to recede in summer, but health measures and limiting variants pivotal: Ontario data

“The number of settings where a variant or an outbreak associated with a variant will be identified, will increase.”

On Wednesday, an outbreak was declared at Monsignor Doyle Catholic Secondary School in Cambridge, which Wang says has been connected to a variant of concern.

“Currently, there are three total cases associated with this outbreak,” she told the board.  “No further action is required at this time as the impacted cohort was already dismissed as a result of the original case.”

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She told the board there were 59 cases that have tested positive for a variant of concern with four of those being connected to the B.1.1.7 variant first detected in the United Kingdom.

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Those numbers quickly jumped to 67 on Thursday when Waterloo Public Health reported seven more.

There are currently three variants of concern in Ontario, including the strains that were first reported in the U.K., Brazil and South America.

These strains are reported to spread at a faster rate than others. It is not known whether they are more lethal or not.

Read more: How prevalent are variants? A closer look at what — and where — they are in Canada

Perhaps as worryingly, the agency also said there were 69 new positive tests for the coronavirus in the area, raising the total number of cases in the area to 10,537.

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This is the highest number of new cases reported in the area since Feb. 6.

Wang says while the numbers were improving in January and into February, they have recently plateaued and caseworkers have been hearing alarming news.

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“In our case and contacts follow-up, we are now starting to hear of increases again and gatherings with friends and family outside of immediate households,” she explained.

There was also one new death reported on Thursday which listed the total number of deaths in the area to 223.

The first reported victim in five days was a resident of the Court at Laurelwood Retirement Residence, which has had an active outbreak since Feb. 17.

There are currently 21 active outbreaks in Waterloo Region with two in warehouses and a third at St. Mary’s General Hospital being declared over.

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On the flip side, an outbreak was also declared at Howard Robertson Public School in Kitchener after two students from one cohort tested positive for the coronavirus.

Read more: 11 Toronto schools each have at least 1 possible COVID-19 variant case

In addition, another 28 people have been cleared of the virus, raising the total number of resolved cases to 9,950.

The number of active cases in Waterloo Region now sits at 357, a jump of 37 more cases.

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