10th case of COVID-19 in region, visitors to be restricted at Waterloo region's hospitals

Sometime over the next 48 hours, visitors will be restricted from Grand River Hospital and St. Mary's Hospital in Kitchener as well as Cambridge Memorial Hospital. Volunteers are also being asked to stay home.

What you need to know about COVID-19 in Waterloo region on March 18

Signs like this one are posted at municipal buildings throughout Waterloo region reminding people on how to stop the spread of germs during the COVID-19 pandemic. Most municipal buildings are now closed to the public. (Kate Bueckert/CBC)

The region now has its tenth case of the coronavirus.

The region's website says it's a woman in her 40s who travelled to Pakistan. She is currently in self-isolation at home.

Waterloo region's acting medical officer of health Dr. Hsiu-Li Wang said there is currently one coronavirus patient in the hospital.

The other confirmed case that was in hospital has been sent home for self-isolation, Wang said Wednesday morning. All other cases are also self-isolating at home.

She said she wanted to remind people that testing does not take place at public health offices, and if someone needs to be tested or has questions about symptoms, they should call their healthcare provider or the province's Telehealth. 

Wang said the region is currently actively monitoring 225 cases.

So far, more than 550 people have been tested. Of those, 330 were determined not to have COVID-19, and the region is awaiting results for approximately 200 people.

Is social distancing working?

Wang said the region does not have a sense of how many people are self-isolating at home, and it would be impossible to track that.

Wang was also asked when people would have a sense of whether social distancing or self-isolation is helping to "flatten the curve."

"It's a little too early to say," Wang said, adding, "We should start seeing some effects ... in a couple of weeks."

Hospitals to restrict visitors

In the next 24 to 48 hours, visitors will be restricted from going to Grand River Hospital and St. Mary's Hospital in Kitchener.

Cambridge Memorial Hospital will begin visitor restrictions at 8 a.m. Thursday. As well, the hospital is also postponing all non-urgent, elective surgeries and services.

This will be for an "undetermined period of time," the hospitals said.

In a joint statement Wednesday morning, the two Kitchener hospitals said this is to keep patients safe as concerns about the spread of COVID-19 grow.

"There will be limited exceptions to this restriction. None of us wants social distance to become isolating for patients. Our staff will do what they can to help patients and families connect virtually and by telephone," the statement from Ron Gagnon, president and CEO of Grand River Hospital and Lee Fairclough, president of St. Mary's General Hospital.

They said they will provide more clear details on how that will work in the coming days.

The hospitals have also asked volunteers to stay home.

Restrict large groups, even in private

Wang noted any private events planned for the coming weeks that would include more than 50 people should be cancelled.

"My strong recommendation is that whether the events are private or public that they not be held," she said Wednesday. She also urged venues that rent space to not allow people to host events of more than 50 people.

When it comes to stores where more than 50 people might be inside at a time, Wang said customers can keep their distance from each other.

The Region of Waterloo's CEO Mike Murray said transit will continue to operate, and they've taken measures to keep operators safe.

He said in the past week, Grand River Transit has seen a "pretty significant decrease in ridership" on buses and the LRT and that means there's space for people to spread out.

As well, the doors of the LRT now open automatically so people don't have to touch anything. On buses, the yellow line riders must stay behind has been moved back.

"We believe that for now, we've kind of created enough social distance on transit to keep our operators safe and keep our customers safe," he said.

Murray said they know Guelph has asked riders to get on buses at the back of the bus unless they need an accessible entrance and riders won't have to pay a fare until April 15. Right now the region is doing what it can, Murray said, adding they will monitor what other areas are doing and changes may be made in the future.

Guelph clinic sees 115 people

Guelph opened its assessment clinic on Tuesday and officials say they saw 115 people come in for testing during operating hours, which are between 8 a.m. and 8 p.m.

Wellington Dufferin Guelph Public Health tweeted at 3:30 p.m. Tuesday that the clinic was at capacity for the day.

Just before 5 p.m., public health tweeted that people who were still in line would be assessed, while anyone showing up between 5 p.m. and 8 p.m. would be asked to return on Wednesday.

People who attend the clinic are assessed by on-site clinicians to determine who needs to be tested.

People with mild symptoms are being asked to self-isolate at home while people with moderate symptoms are being asked to call their family physician for an over-the-phone assessment before going to the clinic.


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