Medical officer of health urges 'social distancing,' ramps up recommendations to stop COVID-19 spread
People in region urged to stay two arms’ length away from each other, regional public health says
People in the Region of Waterloo should practice "social distancing" whenever possible by staying at least two arms' length away from each other, the region's acting medical officer of health Dr. Hsiu-Li Wang said Sunday.
Doing so will help prevent the spread of COVID-19, she said.
The call for social distancing follows a recommendation last week to postpone or cancel all large gatherings of 250 people or more, which remains in effect. Organizations that have the ability to provide services virtually are urged to do so.
To that end, a number of facilities and programs run by the region and by area municipalities, such as libraries, arenas and swimming pools, will shutter for two weeks beginning March 16.
Long-term care, childcare
Public health says long-term care homes, retirement homes, supportive housing and hospices should only allow "essential visitors" until further notice.
Essential visitors are people who have a resident that is dying or very ill, or the parents or guardians of an ill child or youth who is living in a treatment setting.
This rule is in effect at Sunnyside Home, the region's long-term care facility.
All licensed childcare centres have been recommended to actively screen children, parents, staff and visitors for symptoms and travel history that could be related to COVID-19.
In the Region of Waterloo, all regionally operated childcare centres will also close for two weeks beginning March 16.
Grand River Hospital and St. Mary's General Hospital are limiting visitors and companions to one per patient until further notice.
All returning travellers to Canada should self-isolate for 14 days, public health says.
Those returning from Hubei Province, Iran and Italy should reach out to public health within 24 hours of returning.
Dr. Wang is also reinforcing the importance of several travel-related recommendations made late last week.
Residents are urged to postpone all non-essential travel outside of Canada, including to the United States.
Returning travellers to the region should not visit people in hospital, visit a long-term care or retirement home or visit seniors or people with chronic health conditions.
Children who travel outside the country should not return to school, daycare or camps for 14 days.
"We know [these recommendations] are not easy for all members of our community but we feel that it's very important that we start to do these things now because we still have this window of opportunity to slow down the spread of infection," said Dr. Wang.