2nd COVID-19 death in Waterloo region is St. Mary's patient in his 50s

A second man in the region has died of COVID-19, a man in his 50s with pre-existing medical conditions who was in hospital at St. Mary's General Hospital in Kitchener. Public health also announced the region has 117 confirmed or presumptive cases as of Wednesday morning.
The Region of Waterloo has announced all municipal facilities, including administrative buildings, arenas, community centres, playgrounds and skate parks will be closed until at least May 4. The decision coincides with the province announcing schools are not expected to open to students until May 4. (Jackie Sharkey/CBC)

A second man in the region has died of COVID-19, a man in his 50s with pre-existing medical conditions who was in hospital at St. Mary's General Hospital in Kitchener.

Dr. Hsiu-Li Wang, the acting medical officer of health for the Region of Waterloo, said public health received confirmation of the man's death Wednesday morning just before a scheduled media briefing.

"This is an especially difficult time for the family and loved ones and I wish to express my deepest condolences to them," Wang said.

Regional Chair Karen Redman said her thoughts are with the family and friends of the two people who have died, along with the staff at St. Mary's hospital who helped treat the two men.

"This is sad news. It's a sobering reminder that we must all keep making efforts to reduce the spread of this virus and continue to adhere to the preventative measures in place that are being promoted by public health," Redman said.

The news comes on the same day that Region of Waterloo Public Health announced there are now 117 confirmed or presumptive cases in the region. That's up from 103 reported on Monday.

A presumptive case is one where a lab has said the person likely has COVID-19 based on testing from swabs taken from the patient, but that conclusion needs to be confirmed by a reference lab. It is currently taking up to five days for test results to be confirmed.

In terms of testing:

  • 1,915 people have been tested for COVID-19.
  • 1,329 of those tests have come back as negative.
  • 469 people are awaiting test results.
  • 21 people are in hospital.
  • 78 people are self-isolating.
  • 28 cases involve healthcare workers.

There has been one other death from COVID-19 in Waterloo region. As well, 15 cases have been marked as resolved.

Community spread tops ways of transmission

When it comes to how people are getting the virus, there are now 47 cases of community transmission. That is more than the number of cases where people contracted COVID-19 while travelling (26 cases) or who got it after close contact with someone else who had the virus (37 cases), said public health. Right now public health is still figuring out how the virus was transmitted in 11 cases; which are listed as "pending." 

The graph above shows the number of cases in Waterloo region. The region will update case numbers again on Friday. Updates are provided on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays.

Region of Waterloo Public Health is not testing everyone with symptoms. It has said that it is reserving testing for priority cases, including healthcare workers, hospital patients and people in long-term care facilities.

People experiencing mild symptoms are being asked to stay home and self-isolate.

People who do not have symptoms may go out for essentials, but are asked to keep a physical distance of at least two metres between themselves and other people who are not members of their household.

Outbreaks at long-term care facilities

The public health unit also says there are two "active" outbreaks declared at long-term care facilities: Sunnyside Home, where a staff member has tested positive, and Highview Residences, where two residents have tested positive. Both homes are located in Kitchener.

Wang said a new directive from the province says public health units need to declare an outbreak at a long-term care facility any time a resident or an employee tests positive for COVID-19. Both outbreaks were declared Tuesday night.

Joy Birch, Highview Residences' chief operating officer, said in a statement that staff are implementing resident exposure protocols to prevent further spread.

"We are working closely with the Region of Waterloo Public Health to ensure we are following strict infection prevention and control guidelines," Birch said.

In Stratford, two residents at Greenwood Court have also tested positive for COVID-19, Huron Perth Public Health announced Wednesday.

The health unit said it also learned of a positive case in a resident at Hillside Manor near Sebringville on the weekend.

Miriam Klassen, Huron Perth's medical officer of health, said seniors "are a vulnerable population and are more likely to experience severe symptoms of COVID-19."

"Unfortunately we expect to see more COVID-19 cases in long-term care homes in Perth and Huron Counties in the coming weeks as more test results come in," Klassen said in a news release.

What's an 'essential' reason to leave home?

Wang also clarified on Wednesday what are considered "essential reasons" for people to leave their homes, which include:

  • Healthcare appointments.
  • Trips to the grocery store.
  • Picking up medication from a pharmacy.
  • Walking pets when required.
  • Supporting vulnerable community members with meeting the above needs.

"We recommend you stay at home and limit the number of trips that you make into the community unless it's for essential reasons," she said.

"No one is immune to the development of infection, nor the possibility of serious complications and death," Wang said. "I know many have endured difficulties and have had to sacrifice because of the many restrictions and closures. We need to support one another." 

She said if people follow the recommendations, "you can help prevent someone from getting critically ill or worse."

Municipal facilities to be closed until May 4

The decision to keep facilities closed aligns with the province extending the state of emergency to mid-April and announcing schools will not reopen to students until at least May 4.

That includes city halls and municipal administrative offices, farmers' markets, playgrounds, libraries, arenas and pools.

"Residents are encouraged to visit their respective municipal website for the most up-to-date details about critical services and pandemic responses," the region's media release said.

23 cases in Guelph

Wellington-Dufferin-Guelph Public Health says on its website that there are 45 confirmed positive cases of COVID-19 in the area the health unit covers.

Of those, 23 are in Guelph, 14 are in Dufferin County and seven are in Wellington County. One case is missing on the map breakdown.

Public health says there are 23 people self-isolating and three are in hospital, including one person who is in intensive care. It did not give a status for the other cases.

Three cases have been marked as resolved. 

When it comes to ages, 32 of the cases are in people between the ages of 20 and 64, eight cases are in adults aged 65 to 79 and there are five cases in people over the age of 80.

Wellington-Dufferin-Guelph Public Health also reported a patient at Headwaters Health Care Centre in Orangeville tested positive for COVID-19. Unrelated, said public health, five staff members from the same unit at the hospital have also tested positive.

The patient is isolated in the hospital. The staff members are self isolating at home.

School athletics cancelled

The Waterloo Catholic District School Board announced all elementary athletic events are cancelled for the remainder of the year.

That includes a frisbee festival, soccer tournaments, track and field, folk dancing meets and cross country running.

The news comes after the province announced the earliest students would return to the classroom is May 4.

"Due to the open-endedness of school closures, the hope is that some level of physically active intramural programming can be introduced at a school level when students return to school," the board said on its website.

Signs go blue for healthcare

Cambridge is lighting up its pedestrian bridge Craig's Crossing as well as the sign in front of city hall in blue, in support of healthcare workers.

"Our doctors, nurses, frontline health workers and first responders — you are our healthcare heros," Mayor Kathryn McGarry said in a video on her Twitter feed.

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