Mixed feelings as Waterloo region remains in Step 1 this week

Garry Sahota had big plans for a cricket match this weekend, but they were cancelled given that Waterloo region won't move to Step 2 of reopening with the rest of Ontario, and sports are still off-limits.

Health officials urge people not to travel outside the region for shopping, amenities

The Lancers Cricket Club can't play against other teams for the time being because the Waterloo region is remaining in Step 1 of Ontario's reopening plan. (Submitted by Garry Sahota)

Garry Sahota had big plans for a cricket match this weekend. 

But those plans were made back when Ontario as a whole was set to reopen July 2. Now, while the rest of the province moves to Step 2 Wednesday, Waterloo region will likely stay in Step 1 until mid-July. 

"It's disappointing for sure," said Sahota, president and captain of the Lancers Cricket Club in Cambridge, Ont.

The club is part of a friendly cricket league that plays teams across southwestern Ontario. While the rest of the league will reopen, all local matches have been scrapped. 

Disappointment aside, Sahota said he trusts health officials to make the right call. 

"We have to move together, I guess, and hopefully we will get through this together." 

Jacqueline Howe, pictured in a previous photo, said being unable to open means a financial hit, but she's focused on the bright side: more time with her kids. (Submitted by Jacqueline Howe)

Jacqueline Howe has also chosen to look on the bright side. The owner of Panache Hair Lounge in New Hamburg said her business has taken a hit in the last year, and has only been open for about half of it. 

At this stage of the pandemic, though, Howe said waiting another few weeks doesn't ruffle her.

"Even though the financial stress is still there, it just really is a blessing to be able to get a little extra time with my family." 

'Could see a tsunami' if we relax too soon

Health officials hope more people also adopt a positive attitude about the delayed reopening, which Patrick Gaskin said is crucial to providing enough time for vaccines to take effect.

Until then, Gaskin said the region's COVID-19 situation is delicate.

"Everyone wants to hug people, and get back and go into the gym, and get your hair cut, but we just can't," said Gaskin, president and CEO of Cambridge Memorial Hospital (CMH).  

"If we get the tsunami that could come, it will crush the healthcare system here."

Late last week, the region saw an uptick in the number of patients hospitalized due to COVID-19. 

On Thursday, 23 per cent of patients admitted to hospital for COVID-19 in Ontario were at the three hospitals in Waterloo region, said Lee Fairclough, president of St. Mary's General Hospital.

"That's striking considering that we represent four per cent of the population in Ontario," said Fairclough at a media briefing Friday.

Cambridge Memorial Hospital CEO Patrick Gaskin is urging people to rally behind health-care workers by staying strong and following the rules a little while longer. (Julianne Hazlewood/CBC)

At the same briefing, Fairclough urged people not to travel to parts of Ontario that are reopening this week. This could lead to more spread of the delta variant outside the region, she said. 

"If this was a year ago and we didn't know anything about this virus, then fine. But honestly, three waves in, we all know better." 

Dr. Hsiu-Li Wang, Waterloo region's medical officer of health, said it will also help local businesses if residents hold tight until more businesses and amenities can safely reopen. 

As for salon owner Howe, she already has a number of standing appointments booked through next year, and is ready to hit the ground running once the region can safely reopen. 

"We're coming back to a full schedule." 

Lee Fairclough, president of St. Mary's General Hospital, holds out her hair during a COVID-19 media briefing on Friday to indicate that she, too, would like to get a haircut. She urged people not to go to neighbouring communities as Waterloo region remains in Step 1. (Region of Waterloo/YouTube)

With files from Kate Bueckert