State of emergency declared in Waterloo region over COVID-19

The Region of Waterloo, including the three cities and four townships, have declared a state of emergency in the COVID-19 pandemic.
The seven mayors from Waterloo region's cities and townships joined regional Chair Karen Redman for a media briefing Wednesday morning. (Kate Bueckert/CBC)

A state of emergency has been declared in Waterloo region over COVID-19.

The mayors of the seven municipalities as well as regional Chair Karen Redman announced they're declaring a state of emergency in light of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The move "will ensure our municipal governments can continue to act and respond quickly to the pandemic and any other events that arise in the weeks ahead," a release from the City of Waterloo said.

The municipalities declare a state of emergency so councils can take actions and enact orders "to protect the inhabitants of the municipality and increases the ability of municipalities to share resources, personnel and equipment to respond and support the broader public sector and key services."

Redman said the decision was made to declare a state of emergency now to get people's attention. There are some people who still are not getting the message about social distancing and self-isolation.

"I do not make this declaration lightly. I make it because it is necessary," Redman said.

As of Monday, the region had 32 confirmed or presumed cases of COVID-19. Those numbers are expected to be updated later Wednesday morning, with acting medical officer of health Dr. Hsiu-Li Wang scheduled to give an update at 11:30 a.m.

Redman said while there is no time limit for the state of emergency to be lifted, she thinks they will end it when the number of cases level off or decrease and when residents are not at the same risk they now.

Mayors support move

The mayors of the four townships and three cities all said they support the call for a state of emergency.

Kitchener Mayor Berry Vrbanovic said there are two reasons it's important: it allows people who volunteer in the community in the coming weeks to help with COVID-19 to get coverage under the Workplace Safety Insurance Board.

As well, he says it "starts a clock ticking" for future funding from the federal and provincial government that hasn't been announced yet.

Woolwich Mayor Sandy Shantz said township, city and regional staff have already been working together on co-ordinated efforts.

"If we work through this together, and we all co-operate, we'll get through this," Shantz said to residents. "If people don't self isolate, we will go through more pain."

Police to help with non-compliance

As part of the state of emergency declared by the province, the Waterloo Regional Police Service will ensure non-essential businesses comply with mandatory orders to close.

The province ordered all non-essential businesses to close as of 11:59 p.m. Tuesday. A list of essential businesses can be found here.

Police Chief Bryan Larkin says police will work with public health, emergency services and community partners "to ensure the safety of everyone in Waterloo region."

A release from police noted any corporation that doesn't comply with the order to close "could face fines up to $10 million. Directors and officers of a corporation that fails to comply with the order could face fines up to $500,000."

Redman said police will continue that work, but the region may also call on the service to help with emergency measures in the future.


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