9th confirmed case of COVID-19 in Waterloo region as health officials call for people to avoid crowds

There are now nine confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Waterloo region. People are now warned to avoid large gatherings of over 50 people, according to acting medical officer of health Dr. Hsiu-Li Wang.

What you need to know about COVID-19 in Waterloo region on March 17

People in the Region of Waterloo should now avoid large gatherings of over 50 people, says acting medical officer of health Dr. Hsiu-Li Wang. They should also practice social distancing and hand hygiene. (Michael Wilson/CBC)

There is now a ninth confirmed case of COVID-19 in Waterloo region.

The news on Tuesday comes as acting medical officer of health Dr. Hsiu-Li Wang called on people to avoid gatherings of more than 50 people.

The case involves a man in his 20s who travelled to Los Angeles. He did not develop symptoms until after he returned to the region, according to public health officials.

He was tested at Grand River Hospital in Kitchener and is now self-isolating at home.

Wang said the numbers reported in Waterloo region were ahead of the numbers released by the province on Tuesday morning.

Of the nine cases in the region, two are hospitalized but are in stable condition.

St. Mary's High School exposure

In an update on one case, Wang said there is "potential of a low-risk exposure in certain specific classroom settings at St. Mary's High School" in Kitchener.

Public health and the school and school board sent out letters to 80 people "who may have potentially been exposed to a low risk situation," Wang said.

"This is likely more than the actual number that was actually exposed. At the same time, we wanted to be cautious and make sure that we captured everyone."

The region has said coronavirus testing will be limited as there aren't enough test kits to use on everyone experiencing symptoms. Those with mild symptoms are unlikely to be tested, Wang said, as their care wouldn't change.

Close daycares, no crowds over 50 people

The new recommendation to avoid crowds is in line with updated public health recommendations made by the federal government and Ontario's chief medical officer of health.

Wang has also ordered the closure of the following:

  • Recreational programs.
  • Private schools.
  • Daycares.
  • Churches and other faith settings.
  • Bars and restaurants, with the exception of those who are providing takeout/delivery food.

"I know these measures will be difficult," said Wang in a news release Tuesday.

"However, they will further help to slow the spread of the virus, and further reduce cases of serious illness and death. Everyone in Waterloo Region can help to protect our most vulnerable."

If you feel symptoms

Anyone who begins to feel ill with symptoms including a fever, new cough or difficulty breathing should go home and immediately self-isolate, Wang said.

Those who are self-isolating should call their primary care provider's office or TeleHealth Ontario (1-866-797-0000) for assessment.

If you are in medical distress and need urgent care, call 911.

Social distancing, travel guidelines 

Public health officials are recommending "social distancing" in addition to handwashing and cough etiquette.

Social distancing means staying two metres, or two arms' length, away from others.

Long-term care homes, retirement homes, supportive housing and hospices have been told to only allow "essential visitors" until further notice.

Region of Waterloo residents should postpone non-essential travel outside of Canada, including to the United States.

Those who are returning from travel outside of Canada should self-isolate for 14 days, and those returning from Hubei Province, Iran and Italy should also call public health within 24 hours of returning.

Returning visitors should also avoid visiting patients in hospital, visiting long-term care and retirement homes and visiting the elderly and vulnerable.

Closures continue

On Tuesday, the Region of Waterloo announced all additional facilities that had remained open until this point will now close.

"This includes all city/township halls, regional headquarters and municipal administrative offices," the region said in a release. "All emergency services and all services deemed critical by each local municipality will continue."

As well, the Canadian Mental Health Association Waterloo Wellington announced it was closing all of its locations. In a news release, the organization said it was looking at safe ways to provide its services.

In Cambridge, the byelection for the ward 7 council seat has been postponed.

For a list of local closures, cancellations and postponements, click here.

Guelph offers free transit until mid-April

Guelph Transit says it's changing the bus schedule to help curb the spread of COVID-19 in the community, but it will also allow people to ride for free until mid-April.

In a release Tuesday, the city announced late night service will be cancelled indefinitely.

Riders will be asked to board the bus using the back doors away from the driver unless they need an accessible entrance.

The city is also waiving all fares until April 15, in part so people don't have to go to city hall to buy a new monthly bus pass before April 1.

Robin Gerus, Guelph Transit's general manager, said in the release that the changes will interrupt the lives of some riders but "we think it's the best way to prevent the potential spread of COVID-19 and protect our the health and safety of our customers and employees."

Mobility service customers are asked to avoid all non-essential travel and transit officials ask anyone who isn't feeling well to not ride the bus.


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