Kitchener-Waterloo

Lessons learned from COVID-19 will be 'shock absorbers' if second wave hits Waterloo region: Chair Redman

Staff and politicians with the Region of Waterloo is focusing on recovering from the COVID-19 pandemic, but they're also aware a second wave of the virus may hit the community.

Region made changes quickly and now have models they can implement quickly if needed, CAO says

The Region of Waterloo has learned lessons from the past few months of COVID-19 that will help the community should there be a second wave of the virus, officials say. (Kate Bueckert/CBC)

Waterloo region staff and politicians are currently focusing on slowly reopening locally, but they say the lessons learned over the last few months will help should there be a second wave of COVID-19.

Experts have warned a second wave of the novel coronavirus could emerge if physical distancing measures are eased. Toronto infectious disease physician Dr. David Fisman has warned Ontario is "very, very likely to experience surges in disease."

Waterloo region has been hit hard by the pandemic, with the region losing approximately $4.8 million each month on user fees and court fines while also paying additional expenses, including more support for people who are homeless and personal protective equipment for staff.

The impact on the region should there be a second wave is something regional politicians have been talking and thinking about, regional Chair Karen Redman says.

She says there's been collaboration on a local level with BestWR (Business and Economic Support Team of Waterloo Region), which includes officials from the local chambers of commerce, business improvement areas, tourism, Communitech and municipal officials who are focusing on helping the local economy recover.

There's also been support from the provincial and federal governments.

"I think that will be key to, not only our recovery, but how we withstand, with shock absorbers throughout the community ... whatever the second wave looks like," Redman said.

'We've learned a lot'

Regional CAO Mike Murray says staff have been focused on the response and recovery aspect of the current pandemic.

"All the lessons learned through the response phase and the recovery phase, I think, will serve us well if and when a second wave actually happens," Murray said.

"We've learned a lot. We made a lot of changes in short time and so I think we've got models we can use quickly if and when we need to."

A report on the response is expected to be presented at Tuesday's committee of the whole meeting for regional council. Regional Coun. Sean Strickland is also expected to bring forward a motion on Tuesday to form a pandemic recovery committee that will report to councillors.

Health system gaps became more apparent

Dr. Hsiu-Li Wang, the acting medical officer of health for the region, said health officials across the region are also preparing for a possible second wave. She said they're awaiting projections from the province, which will help them plan.

"The health system partners continue to be in regular contact with each other and we continue to focus on making sure that the things that we do today ... how we respond to COVID-19 as we're in the current first wave, the things we're doing today can also serve to inform how we do things in the future so that we can do everything that we can to mitigate the effects of the second wave should it occur," Wang said.

"A lot of the issues we've encountered have to do with system issues, health system issues and gaps in the system that were previously present and that have become more apparent during COVID-19 due to additional strain on the system."

Wang said work will need to continue to address system gaps so the region's health facilities are prepared for a potential second wave.

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