'COVID-19 is not over:' Waterloo region's daily case count rises above Ontario average

The daily rate of COVID-19 cases in the Waterloo region has moved above the provincial average, a figure pushed upward by household clusters and social gatherings, the region's medical officer of health says.

It's critical for people to keep up public health measures, medical officer of health says

Dr. Hsiu-Li Wang is Waterloo region's medical officer of health. She says as more people move indoors, and many in the community remain unvaccinated for COVID-19, case rates are expected to rise. (Carmen Groleau/CBC)

The daily rate of COVID-19 cases in the Waterloo region has moved above the provincial average, a figure pushed upward by household clusters and social gatherings, the region's medical officer of health says.

That's why it's critical for people to continue to follow public health measures, Dr. Hsiu-Li Wang said Tuesday.

On Nov. 1 eight cases were reported, compared to this weekend when the daily case count ranged from 27 to 39 over a period of three days. On Tuesday, public health reported 17 new cases in the region.

"We have seen our daily rate double over the past couple of days and we're above the provincial average at this time," Dr. Hsiu-Li Wang told regional councillors Tuesday morning during an update at a committee meeting.

"This is an important reminder that COVID-19 is not over and that COVID-19 — and the delta variant — is a formidable virus and will spread easily in the absence of public health measures and vaccination."

This graph from the region's COVID-19 dashboard shows the 7 day moving average rate of new cases per 100,000 people. The blue line is Waterloo region, which sits slightly above the province, which is the orange line. (Region of Waterloo)

On Tuesday, the province reported 441 new cases of COVID-19, a roughly 33 per cent jump from a week earlier. It also marked the ninth consecutive day of week-over-week increases in cases.

Wang said local case and contact management has found there have been clusters of cases in households and cases linked to social events in private settings.

On Tuesday, the region reported there were 176 active cases in the region and 11 outbreaks, including five in schools and one at Wilfrid Laurier University. The university confirmed on Monday there was one confirmed case in a student living in residence on the Waterloo campus.

The University of Waterloo also confirmed a positive COVID-19 case in someone who'd visited campus — its first case in more than three weeks. The person is in self-isolation and all close contacts have been notified, the university said in a statement. 

Rise in cases affects children

Wang said COVID-19 is spreading among people who are unvaccinated, either by choice or because they're ineligible for the vaccine yet.

"As we have seen in past waves, when our community rates increased, so do our rates in school-aged children who are part of these families," Wang said.

As of Tuesday, there were five outbreaks in area schools:

  • Galt Collegiate Institute in Cambridge with two cases.
  • Cedar Creek Public School in Ayr with two cases.
  • École élémentaire L'Harmonie in Waterloo with two cases.
  • Southwood Secondary School in Cambridge with two cases.
  • Glenview Park Secondary School in Cambridge with two cases.

On Tuesday, the Waterloo Region District School Board indicated the newly reported case at Glenview Park is in a student who was last in the building on Nov. 4 and is linked to a previous case in the same cohort.

The current outbreaks in schools are impacting individual cohorts only and have not led to school-wide shutdowns.

Wang noted that as of Sunday, there are approximately 126,000 residents in the region who are not vaccinated.

"For comparison, this is equivalent to an entire mid-sized city, such as Cambridge or Waterloo not being immunized," Wang said.

Dr. Hsiu-Li Wang, fourth down in green box, presents her update on COVID-19 to regional councillors during a committee meeting on Tuesday morning. (Region of Waterloo/YouTube)

The 2016 census pegged Cambridge's population at 129,920 while the City of Waterloo says on its website that its population as of 2017 is 137,420 when students and temporary residents are included.

Wang also noted 44,000 are people over the age of 12 and could get the vaccine.

"Public health precautions remain essential for all of us to protect against the spread of COVID-19," she said.

That includes:

  • Wearing a mask or face covering in all indoor public spaces, as well as outdoor settings when required or where distance cannot be maintained.
  • Limit the number of close contacts where possible, especially indoors. 
  • Ensure indoor environments are well ventilated. 
  • If a person has symptoms, they should self isolate from others in their household as much as possible and seek testing and a local assessment and testing centre.

"We need to continue to increase our vaccination rates, including third doses for those who are eligible when they become eligible," Wang noted.

Coun. Tom Galloway said he's received questions from parents who want to know when the vaccine will be available for children 11 and under, especially as the U.S. has started inoculations for younger age groups.

Wang said public health is "hopeful that the vaccine for the five to 11-year-old group may be approved toward the end of November, beginning of December."

The region's vaccination dashboard reported Tuesday that 76.09 per cent of all people in Waterloo region have received two doses of the COVID-19 vaccine.


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