More children sick with COVID-19 as case rates rise in Waterloo region: Dr. Hsiu-Li Wang

There was a steady increase in COVID-19 cases throughout November and many cases were in unvaccinated people, including school-aged children who only recently became eligible to receive the vaccine, says the region's medical officer of health.

Trend 'will likely continue' until more children can be vaccinated, medical officer says

Kalence Berard, 8, hugs a toy as she gets her COVID-19 vaccination in Winnipeg. In Waterloo region, 30 per cent of children aged five to 11 either have been vaccinated or have an appointment booked. (Jeff Stapleton/CBC)

There was a steady increase in COVID-19 cases throughout November and many cases were in unvaccinated people, including school-aged children who only recently became eligible to receive the vaccine, says the region's medical officer of health.

Children between the ages of five and 11 only began getting their vaccines last week — and without that protection there have been numerous outbreaks in schools, Dr. Hsiu-Li Wang said Friday during a media briefing.

"This trend will likely continue until more of our five to 11-year-old population becomes immunized," Wang said.

As of Friday, the region's dashboard showed there were outbreaks in five schools:

  • Blessed Sacrament Catholic Elementary School in Kitchener has 20 cases. The school is currently closed to in-person learning and the school board says it expects students will be able to return to the classroom on Monday.
  • Southridge Public School in Kitchener with four cases.
  • St. Vincent De Paul Catholic Elementary School in Cambridge with four cases in multiple cohorts.
  • Cedar Creek Public School in Ayr with two cases.
  • Lester B. Pearson Public School in Waterloo with two cases.

Friday afternoon the Waterloo Region District School Board also announced a two-case outbreak at Forest Glen Public School in New Hamburg. The board noted this was not a school-wide outbreak.

At Southridge Public School, the four cases are linked to the outbreak in one cohort, but Wang said there are 10 cases in the school. Public health has dismissed nine cohorts in total, including six classes, one bus and two staff cohorts. 

"We have the sense that there is increasing numbers of children who are testing positive," Wang said, noting that there have been clear links that show children contracted the virus from people within their household or a high-risk contact.

Public health has offered rapid tests to parents and caregivers at Southridge, which Wang called a "prudent and proactive measure" to curb spread and catch any cases in asymptomatic students. Use of the rapid tests is voluntary, but Wang said public health hopes families will participate.

Any students who attend the school who have symptoms should not use the rapid test, Wang said, but instead should seek out a PCR test at a COVID-19 assessment centre.

As more children get vaccinated, Wang said she expects case rates to decline. She said research data has shown that children mount a good immune response even with one dose.

26 new cases

There were 26 new cases of COVID-19 reported in Waterloo region on Friday.

There were 230 active cases. There were eight people in the region's three hospitals infectious with the virus. There were five people in the intensive care unit. The region notes people in the ICU may no longer be infectious with COVID-19 but do require ongoing care.

There were 10 outbreaks in the region, including the five in schools mentioned above. The other outbreaks were:

  • A construction workplace with three cases.
  • A retail store with three cases.
  • A transportation workplace with three cases.
  • Jacob Hespeler Child Care Riverside with two cases.
  • A manufacturer with two cases.

30% of children vaccinated, have appointments

Since last Friday, the region has given 8,613 doses of the COVID-19 vaccine to children aged five to 11, said Vickie Murray, the region's vaccine services director.

So far, 30 per cent of children in that age group have either been vaccinated or have appointments to be vaccinated in the coming weeks, she said.

A mass vaccination clinic is scheduled Dec. 11 and 12 in Cambridge where it's hoped 6,000 children will be inoculated, Murray said.

Lisa Anstey, manager of Pinebush vaccine clinic, noted they've updated the space and have called it "Camp Pinebush." On. Dec 11 and 12, she said they plan to have a DJ on site and special guests, like Star Wars characters and a visit from Santa Claus.

"We really want to support a happy, heaylth environment," Anstey said.

Appointments can be made through the region's website.

Preparing for omicron

Wang said there's been no indications of the omicron variant, which was first detected in South Africa, in the region. But she said that she expects it will arrive here.

"I think it's just a matter of when," Wang said.

Wang said the region was significantly impacted by the delta variant — it makes up about half of the 7,200 cases where a mutation in the virus was detected in this region. By comparison, the beta and gamma variants had 21 and 98 cases, respectively.

The delta variant, Wang said, remains a "formidable foe" as it continues to be present in the region.

"With omicron, we don't know, but we need to remain vigilant," she said.


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