Waterloo region sees 41 new COVID-19 cases, 1 death as provincial shutdown looms

Region of Waterloo Public Health is reporting 41 new cases of COVID-19 on Thursday as the region prepares to head into a four-week shutdown beginning on Saturday, along with the rest of the province.

Province to impose a province-wide 'emergency brake' starting Saturday

Waterloo region reported 41 new cases of COVID-19 on Thursday and one new death. (Carmen Groleau/CBC)

Region of Waterloo Public Health reported 41 new cases of COVID-19 on Thursday as the region prepared to head into a four-week shutdown on Saturday along with the rest of the province.

One person with the infection has died, the region reported on Thursday. That raised the number of COVID-related deaths since the start of the pandemic to 243.

Forty more cases have been marked as resolved, bringing the total number of active infections in the region to 309.

There have been 452 cases involving variants of concern in the region with 29 confirmed to be the B117 variant first detected in the U.K.

There are 21 people in hospital with the infection, with seven of those people in the intensive care unit. Meanwhile, the province is reporting a record number of COVID-19 patients in intensive care units across Ontario. There were 421 patients in intensive care as of Wednesday.

The province confirmed another 2,557 new cases of COVID-19 as of Thursday morning.

Premier Doug Ford announced on Thursday plans to move the whole province into an emergency brake situation as a result of increasing case numbers and hospitalizations.

This prohibits indoor organized public events and social gatherings, as well as limiting capacity of gatherings outdoors. It also means the closure of day camps, indoor and outdoor dining and personal care services.

The shutdown decision is one supported by the region's medical officer of health.

"I respect it's a difficult decision the province has to make. They are getting the best advice possible from the provincial experts," said Dr. Hsiu-Li Wang in a media briefing Thursday.

14 outbreaks

There are 14 active outbreaks in the region including six across education institutions in the region.

Those include:

  • Holy Rosary Catholic Elementary School with two cases.
  • St. John Catholic Elementary School with two cases.
  • St. Michael's Catholic Elementary School with two cases.
  • Vista Hills Public School with three cases.
  • Wilfrid Laurier University with three cases.
  • University of Waterloo with 27 cases.

Public health has linked a total of 85 cases of COVID-19 to social gatherings held in early March. Officials said the cluster of cases has been connected to ongoing outbreaks at the University of Waterloo and Wilfrid Laurier University.

"This large cluster has led to a significant community outbreak," Wang said Thursday. "It's not really going to be possible for our team to continue to track additional cases ... After a while, it turns into community transmission."

An outbreak at Forest Heights Revera long-term care has seen four positive cases in staff members, another outbreak at Riverbend Lodge Retirement home has reported one case in a staff member.

There are outbreaks at two construction sites in the region, both with three cases each. There are also outbreaks at two manufacturing workplaces, one with five cases and another with seven.

Two hospitals in the region are grappling with outbreaks including St. Mary's General Hospital and Cambridge Memorial Hospital.

Vaccine distribution delay

The head of the region's vaccine distribution task force said the vaccine distribution rollout plan has seen some delays.

So far, the region has confirmed supply of the Pfizer vaccine well into May, however two-thirds of Moderna vaccine allocation was delayed.

"We will continue to vaccinate thousands of residents daily but not at the levels we were hoping to," said Hilton, who is  deputy chief with Waterloo regional police

The delay resulted in the closure of a vaccination clinic in Wellesley, which is set to reopen next week, said Hilton.

The region confirmed supply from the province to help reopen that clinic as well as planned mobile an pop-up clinics.