14 people have died from COVID-19 in Waterloo region, positive cases rise to 353

Fourteen people in Waterloo region have died due to COVID-19. The three newest deaths are people who lived at two different long-term care homes in the region. The number of positive cases has risen to 353.
A woman wearing a mask walks by a bus in a parking lot in Guelph on Saturday. (Kate Bueckert/CBC)

Three more people have died in Waterloo region due to COVID-19, bringing the total to 14.

New numbers released by Region of Waterloo Public Health Tuesday morning show two deaths were at long-term care homes in Kitchener: one was at Highview Residences and one was at Lanark Heights Long-Term Care.

Highview Residences said the third death was also one of its residents but that death is not reflected in Tuesday's numbers from public health. Dr. Hsiu-Li Wang, the acting medical officer of health for the region, told regional councillors during a committee meeting on Tuesday that death would be reflected in numbers released Wednesday. Five people living at Highview Residences have died since an outbreak began on March 31. 

A statement from Highview Residences said 21 residents live at Blair Creek House, nine have tested positive and the other 12 residents have no symptoms but have been tested. As well, eight staff members have tested positive.

"In so many ways, there are just no words that convey the grief and sadness to the families of our two residents who died yesterday. Our staff and our other families are rallying with each other in support as we grieve and yet keep on working," Joy Birch, chief operating officer of Highview Residences, said in the release on Tuesday.

Birch said Highview is also looking for nurses to work at the home and is working with the Local Health Integration Network to find people.

"Our nursing team has been particularly affected. We need two to three nurses who can come and work with us until we are through this," she said.

353 positive cases

As well, there are now 353 confirmed or presumptive cases of COVID-19 in Waterloo region.

The new numbers from Region of Waterloo Public Health also showed:

  • 3,343 tests have been completed.
  • 23 people are in hospital.
  • 120 cases are marked as resolved.
  • 106 cases involve health-care workers.

The numbers released Tuesday morning are based on data from 7 p.m. on Monday.

The region is not currently testing everyone with symptoms for COVID-19. Public health has said there are certain groups who are prioritized for testing including health-care workers, hospital patients and people living and working in long-term care homes.

The region says negative test results are also no longer being reported on its website because the province is no longer sending the negative results.

Wang said Tuesday that more than 500 people were tested over the long weekend.

Last week, the provincial government announced it wanted to see testing expanded, focusing on the same target groups the region has already been testing, Wang said. The government also announced on Friday there would be additional priority groups added to the list for testing, but "they have not provided the guidance for those groups yet," Wang said.

She said the health ministry is working quickly to get public health units across the province access to that list, although Wang added it's not believed the expansion would include the general public.

13 long-term care homes with outbreaks

The numbers show there are 13 long-term care homes with outbreaks in Waterloo region. There have been seven deaths at long-term care facilities.

Caregivers to be restricted

The province is set to introduce new rules that will prohibit employees from working at multiple long-term care facilities as a way to stop the spread of COVID-19.

Premier Doug Ford said long-term care homes are quickly turning into the front lines in the fight against the novel coronavirus.

Watch: Federal Health Minister Patty Hajdu faces questions on how to improve long term care homes:

Federal Health Minister Patty Hajdu spoke to reporters on Tuesday. 1:42

Risk is across region

During Tuesday's regional council committee meeting, Coun. Elizabeth Clarke asked Wang why the region doesn't breakdown case numbers based on the cities or townships within the region.

"People want to know where these cases are occurring and the rationale for that seems in large part so people will know where they're safe and where they're less safe," Clarke said, saying that becomes a "really dangerous" way of thinking about the virus.

"The fact that your neighbourhood isn't showing cases, [it] doesn't mean that you're neighbourhood doesn't have cases, it simply means no one in your neighbourhood has been tested positive."

Wang said they don't break down cases based on the cities or townships because there are cases right across Waterloo region. 

Wang said testing has been focused on certain groups such as people in long-term care homes, which means the numbers will be skewed based on where those being tested live.

"We should assume the risk of getting COVID-19 is across our region. There's no area where there's a higher risk or a lower risk," Wang said. "It's something we have seen across the region."

Coun. Geoff Lorentz asked Wang when she thought the region would see a flattening of the curve. Wang said it won't be soon.

"We will be on the upswing for a number of weeks," Wang said.

Testing at Grand Valley Institution

Last week, there was a significant jump in the number of tests done at the Grand Valley Institution for Women in Kitchener.

There have been 88 tests done at the women's prison, but 80 of those have come back negative. There are eight positive cases.

The number of tests done at the prison is high compared to other places. In Ontario, the total number of tests done at 15 prison facilities is 126, meaning Grand Valley makes up 70 per cent of all testing in the province.

To put Grand Valley Institution's 88 tests into perspective:

  • Correctional Service Canada has done a total of 302 tests.
  • British Columbia has done 71 tests for 11 prisons.
  • Quebec has done 52 tests in 11 prisons.
  • The next highest prison for testing is Mission Medium Institution in B.C. with 55 tests.

CBC Kitchener-Waterloo has reached out to Correctional Service Canada to ask why Grand Valley Institution saw a jump in testing but did not receive a response immediately.

Wellington-Dufferin-Guelph numbers rise

The number of confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Wellington County, Guelph and Dufferin County has risen to 158, public health numbers showed Tuesday afternoon.

There have been three deaths in the area covered by Wellington-Dufferin-Guelph Public Health.

There are seven people in hospital with four people in intensive care. As well, 33 cases have been marked as resolved.

Long-term care homes with COVID-19 outbreaks are:

  • Caressant Care in Fergus.
  • Wellington Terrace in Fergus.
  • Dufferin Oaks in Shelburne.
  • Shelburne Residences in Shelburne.
  • Homewood Health Centre in Guelph.
  • St. Joseph's Health Centre in Guelph.
  • Norfolk Manor in Guelph.

As well, there is an outbreak at one hospital: Headwaters Health Centre in Orangeville.

U of G donates more PPE

The University of Guelph says it has donated more than 100,000 pairs of nitrile gloves and 2,300 N95 masks, as well as isolation gowns, sanitizer and nasopharyngeal swabs to the Guelph Community Health Centre to help with the response to COVID-19. The health centre will then distribute the items to hospitals and health-care facilities.

The donation is additional to 10,000 N95 masks and two ventilators from the Ontario Veterinary College at the university last month.

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