17 new cases of COVID-19 confirmed in Waterloo region

There are now 32 cases of COVID-19 in Waterloo region with eight people in hospital, Region of Waterloo Public Health announced Monday morning. One of the new presumptive cases is a regional paramedic. Guelph announced the closure of playgrounds, skate parks and dog parks.

32 confirmed or presumptive cases now in the region, 8 in hospital, public health says

Region of Waterloo Public Health reported 17 new cases of COVID-19 Monday morning. (CBC News)

There were 17 new cases of COVID-19 in Waterloo region as of Monday morning, Region of Waterloo Public Health announced on its website.

That brings the total number of confirmed or presumptive cases to 32.

There are eight people currently in hospital, acting medical officer of health Dr. Hsiu-Li Wang said.

Of the other people with COVID-19, 22 are self-isolating at home, and one person is listed as self-isolating "in a residential setting."

The region would not reveal the location, but Wang said it is "not a setting in which there are impacts to the to the broader community. If we were to have an outbreak, I would identify it."

The new cases range in age from 20s to 60s and contracted the virus either by travel — with some to Europe, the U.S. and one case from a trip to Vancouver — close contact with someone else with the virus or through community spread.

One of the new presumptive cases is a paramedic in the region.

"The paramedic's shift partner is currently in self isolation and is symptom free at this time," Wang said, noting paramedic services is following all protocols and will be contacting any staff members who may have come into contact with the paramedic.

Last week, the region was only reporting confirmed cases. Wang said they're now reporting presumptive cases because they're receiving those results from lab partners that have refined the testing process for COVID-19.

There have been 984 people tested for COVID-19 in the region so far, Wang said. Of those, 565 have been confirmed to be negative and the region is awaiting results for 402 people. There are also 434 people being monitored by public health.

"As you can see, we're starting to see the expected rise that other areas in Canada and Ontario have begun to experience. We were anticipating this," Wang said. "Clearly we are beginning to enter this steeper part of the curve in terms of growing numbers of cases. Part of the reason is because we have done a lot of testing and will continue to do so."

Close nail salons, barbershops

Wang said she is recommending the closure of "personal service businesses" such as barbershops, nail salons, tattoo parlours and tanning salons, whether they're located in a commercial location or someone's home.

She also recommended the closure of gyms and fitness facilities and all events venues such as banquet halls and conference centres.

Wang also called on realtors to stop holding open houses, which echoed a call from the Ontario Real Estate Association over the weekend to do the same.

Long-term care residents 

Wang said they've received a number of questions from people who have asked if they can take family or friends out of long-term care facilities for visits because of visitor restrictions at the facilities.

"The answer, simply, is no," Wang said.

She said it would defeat the purpose of social distancing, and the visitor restrictions that have been put into place.

Changes to reporting

Going forward, Region of Waterloo Public Health will update case numbers on Monday, Wednesday and Fridays.

As case numbers continue to rise, Wang said "it will become increasingly challenging to provide accurate numbers on a daily basis."

Public health will also offer fewer details on specific cases going forward.

Another change to expect will be information about where cases that had been out in the community may have been in the days before they were confirmed to have COVID-19. Wang said it's expected those reports will include the location and times a person may have been in the location.

That information will be posted to the region's website in the section dedicated to information about COVID-19.

Don't flush 'flushable' wipes

In an update from the region's CAO Mike Murray, he noted the region's wastewater management staff have seen an increase in items going through the sewers and in particular, a rise in "flushable" wipes.

Those wipes, he said, are not flushable and people should only be flushing human waste and toilet paper.

"Toilets are not trash cans," he said.

Heed the recommendations

Regional Chair Karen Redman said Wang's recommendations for closures and physical distancing "must be heeded. They are not mere suggestions."

"We are facing an unprecedented health challenge in this community and not a single one of us is unaffected," Redman said. "Many citizens will get sick, and our health care system will be strained. But you can make a difference."

Wang said they cannot take reports from the public of people who are not adhering to requests to self-isolate, but "if we see situations of public gatherings that contravene the provincial order, or that or that we feel ... are putting others at significant risk, when we become aware of those, we will follow up."

Wang said there are some stores they can't order shut, such as grocery stores or hardware stores because that could hurt people who need those services.

But the best way to help protect the people who work at those stores is to avoid them as much as possible, especially if people are feeling ill.

"We have to maintain that balance between between trying to create as much social distancing as we can while not causing unintended even worse consequences because we shut everything down," Wang said.

Guelph closes playgrounds

Like Wang, the medical officer of health for Wellington-Dufferin-Guelph Public Health also recommended the closure of personal service businesses such as hairdressers and tattoo shops until April 5.

Dr. Nicola Mercer said many people have made changes to their lives and businesses; however, "not everyone is taking these important actions and at this critical moment stricter measures are necessary to prevent the spread of COVID-19 and to save lives."

Guelph also announced it is closing playgrounds, skate parks and dog parks. The city initially put up signs at playgrounds warning users they can't be sanitized and to use at their own risk.

Trails and open spaces at parks remain open, but people are reminded to keep their distance.


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