Kitchener-Waterloo

Rise in COVID-19 cases attributed to people not following rules in Waterloo region

Waterloo region's acting medical officer of health says the recent rise in cases is because people aren't keeping their social bubbles to just 10 people. Waterloo region added seven COVID-19 cases on Wednesday.

Region's top doctor says people are not keeping their social bubbles to just 10 people

There were seven new cases of COVID-19 reported in Waterloo region on Wednesday. People ignoring rules about social bubbles and not following public health guidelines are largely to blame, the region's acting medical officer of health says. (Carmen Groleau/ CBC)

The rise in COVID-19 cases in Waterloo region is due to people attending social gatherings and not wearing a mask or physically distancing, says the region's top public health official.

During a regional council committee meeting on Tuesday, some people who addressed councillors indicated that the rise in cases locally shows that the region's face covering bylaw is ineffective.

But in an interview on CBC Kitchener-Waterloo's The Morning Edition on Wednesday, the region's acting medical officer of health Dr. Hsiu-Li Wang said the mask bylaw is working and the rise in cases has more to do with people not following public health guidelines.

"I think if we didn't have a masking bylaw, we would have had more cases," Wang said.

"It's one measure, but there are a lot of other important things that we need to keep up with, such as physical distancing and actually wearing [face coverings] in situations where we're in close contact with other people."

Dr. Hsiu-Li Wang is Waterloo region's acting medical officer of health. (Carmen Groleau/CBC)

Multiple bubbles

Wang said public health has noticed a trend of people who have COVID-19 reporting high-risk contacts with others. 

"So this means people are socializing and gathering in close quarters, close contact with others for prolonged periods of time without precaution, such as physical distancing or wearing face covering," she said.

Under the province's guidelines, people are only allowed social bubbles of 10 people to physically interact with or get within two metres of without a mask.

At social gatherings with people outside of their bubble, people should be physically distant and/or wearing masks, she said.

"It's the same 10 people or less. And what we've noticed is people sort of think, 'Oh, I can go with a group of friends as long as they're not over 10. And then I could go with a different group to a family gathering and then a different group to a party and then a different group to a wedding," she said.

"All of that is going to lead to too many interactions with people with whom we are not practicing those precautions."

7 new cases

Regional councillors ultimately voted unanimously in favour of extending the face covering bylaw to May 31, 2021, a decision they will need to ratify at a regular council meeting in September.

Wang supports the extension because it provides extra protection to people heading into cold and flu season.

"There's also preliminary evidence that COVID-19 may circulate more in the cold season. So when you have a confluence of all those infections, you could have a lot of people seeking health care and that may put a lot of strain on the health sector," she said.

This graph by Region of Waterloo Public Health shows the cases of COVID-19 by ages in the region since March. Recently there have been spikes in the age groups 20 to 29 (orange line at the top) and ages 10 to 19 (light blue line near bottom). Cases in people over the age of 70 (yellow, brown and red lines) have largely flattened. (Region of Waterloo Public Health)

On Wednesday, Region of Waterloo Public Health reported seven new cases of COVID-19. That brings the total since March to 1,538.

There are 75 active cases with no one listed as being in hospital at this time. As well, 1,343 cases have been marked as resolved. The number of people who have died due to COVID-19 remains at 120 — a number that has not changed since Aug. 21.

There is one new outbreak in a "congregate setting" as of Wednesday. A congregate setting can include group homes. There is also one active outbreak in a Waterloo long-term care home. One person who works there has tested positive for the virus.

The region's testing centres have done more than 77,800 tests.

The province reported 315 new COVID-19 cases, with the majority in people under the age of 40.

Listen to the full interview with Dr. Hsiu-Li Wang:

Dr. Hsiu-Li Wang, Waterloo region's acting medical officer of health, says the rise in local cases this month is due to people gathering in multiple social bubbles. She also says she supports a decision by regional councillors to extend the face covering bylaw to May 2021. 7:56

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