Kitchener-Waterloo

148 COVID-19 cases in Waterloo region, 24 Guelph hospital workers confirmed

Waterloo region saw a jump of 19 reported new cases on Friday, as regional officials reiterate the speed of increase has been "manageable." Meanwhile in Guelph, 24 workers at Guelph General Hospital have now tested positive for coronavirus.

What you need to know about COVID-19 in Waterloo region on April 3

Transit is free in Waterloo region until May 31, but services will be reduced starting April 20 due to reduced staffing levels and low ridership. (Kate Bueckert/CBC)

Region of Waterloo Public Health is reporting that since Thursday there have been 19 new positive or presumptive cases of COVID-19, bringing the number of people infected in the area to 148. 

According to the public health unit, the difference between confirmed and presumptive cases is that confirmed cases have been verified by a reference lab. 

A presumptive case is where the public health unit believes it's likely a person has COVID-19 based on swabs taken and tested, but that test still needs to be confirmed — a process that is now taking up to five days.

"So far, the speed of increase of cases in Waterloo region has been manageable for our health care system. That is our primary goal, and that will continue to be our goal," said acting medical officer of health Dr. Hsiu-Li Wang at her media briefing Friday morning. 

"I'd just like to say: we are still in the early stages of this pandemic.

"That doesn't mean the efforts we've made as a community to date haven't had an impact. I believe it has, and it has prevented in many cases, hospitalizations and deaths that we would have otherwise seen."

Since the outbreak first hit the region, 29 people have recovered from the virus and 1,667 people have tested negative. The public health unit has conducted 2,242 tests and a fifth of those tests are still pending results 

The Region of Waterloo has said it is prioritizing testing for people who need it most. That includes:

  • People with acute respiratory illness who have been admitted to hospital, who live in long-term care and retirement homes or who live in other institutions and who public health officials believe should be a priority; or, who work in the health care or essential services fields. 
  • Health care workers who work in a healthcare facility where there has been an outbreak, and who public health officials believe should be a priority.
(Region of Waterloo Public Health)

24 Guelph hospital staff test positive

Wellington-Dufferin-Guelph Public Health said Friday two dozen workers at Guelph General Hospital have now tested positive for coronavirus.

Earlier in the week, five people connected to care ward 4E tested positive for COVID-19. The new total includes the cases reported previously.

Wellington-Dufferin-Guelph Public Health says there are now 51 cases in the area. Thursday marked the region's first fatality attributed to COVID-19, a man in his 80s. 

WDG Public Health says there so far have been no known cases of COVID-19 spread in the community. The cause of the vast majority (30) have yet to be determined, but 18 cases are from known contact with someone diagnosed with the virus. 

The public health unit covers the areas of Wellington County, Dufferin County and the City of Guelph.

Of the patients diagnosed with COVID-19 in the area, 32 are self-isolating, five people are in hospital and three are in the intensive care unit. 

More long-term care homes will declare outbreaks

There are now six long-term care facilities in the Region of Waterloo that have declared outbreaks of COVID-19 — though the first outbreak was only declared on Tuesday.

One staff member at Chartwell Westmount, in Kitchener, tested positive on Thursday, in addition to the cases reported previously in the week, which included: 

  • Three residents at Highview Residences in Kitchener.
  • Two staff members at Sunnyside Home in Waterloo.
  • One resident at Forest Heights Revera in Kitchener.
  • One staff member at St. Luke's Place in Cambridge.
  • One staff member at The Village at University Gates in Waterloo.

Due to a new directive from the Ministry of Health, outbreaks are now declared any time a resident or an employee of a retirement or long-term care facility is presumed positive or diagnosed with COVID-19 — even if only one person is infected. 

The growing number of outbreaks at retirement and long-term care facilities will continue to grow, and rather quickly, said Wang.

"We have seen a significant and rapid increase in cases at long-term care homes and retirement homes in other parts of the province, said Wang. "Given what we've seen elsewhere in the province, we should expect to see the numbers of homes under outbreak, and the number of cases rise here locally as well."

"They are working hard, and taking steps to prevent the spread of COVID as best they can, but that said we still need to stay vigilant and monitor the situation closely."

Transit to be free in K-W

Grand River Transit and Ion rides will be free until the end of May, but service is being reduced by 25 per cent in the coming weeks. 

Grand River Transit customer service locations at the corner of King and Benton streets in downtown Kitchener and the Ainslie Street Terminal in Cambridge will be closed as of April 20. 

On April 20, weekday bus service will be reduced, said the Region of Waterloo in a news release. 

Grand River Transit said the service reduction was due to "reduced staffing levels and low ridership," and that not all routes are affected equally. 

For example: 

  • iXpress routes will move to every 30 minutes, as will routes 1, 8, 12, 16 and 20. 
  • Route 302 will run every 15 minutes
  • Route 7 will run every 15 minutes during peak periods, and routes 9, 10, 13 and 19 will have reduced service during morning peak. 
  • Route 110 will be taken out of service and be served by route 10. 

All routes will still have the same start and end times.

"We remain committed to providing reliable service during this difficult time for customers carrying out essential trips," said Peter Zinck, director of transit services for the Region of Waterloo in a media release Friday.

"At the same time, I strongly discourage riders from using transit unnecessarily. Please only travel on transit if the trip is essential."

The region said customers who had paid for passes for the month of April would have that fare automatically credited when paid service resumes. 

People facing "exceptional circumstances" could request a refund by calling 519-585-7597 ext. 7243. 

Guelph to move COVID-19 assessment clinic

Wellington-Dufferin-Guelph Public Health says it is closing its current assessment clinic at 65 Delhi St. and moving to a new facility at 151 Victoria Rd. N., at the Victoria Road Recreation Centre, as of Monday, April 6. 

Though the Delhi Street location was steps from Guelph General hospital, the recreation centre on Victoria Road has better parking and accessibility and greater capacity — which will be important as COVID-19 continues to make its way through the community, said the public health unit. 

"The ability to quickly and efficiently see visitors combined with the ability to rapidly scale up clinic operations are important factors in effectively managing our response to COVID-19 as the situation continues to evolve," said Dr. Nicola Mercer, the unit's medical officer of health.

The clinic at 65 Delhi St. closes at 4 p.m. on Sunday. The new clinic will be open from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m., seven days a week beginning Monday. People should only go to an assessment clinic if they've been told to by a medical professional. 

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About the Author

Jackie Sharkey

Associate Producer, CBC KW

Jackie Sharkey has worked all over the country with the CBC over the past decade, including Kelowna, Quebec City and Rankin Inlet, NU. She frequently reports on the arts and is particularly interested in stories where consumer and environmental issues intersect.

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