No second wave of COVID-19 yet in Peel Region, medical officer says

Peel Region is not experiencing a second wave of COVID-19 yet, says the region's medical officer of health.

Public health able to track most infections, growth in cases not exponential, Dr. Lawrence Loh says

Dr. Lawrence Loh, Peel Region's medical officer of health, says the region is not experiencing a second wave yet. (CBC)

Peel Region is not experiencing a second wave of COVID-19 yet, says the region's medical officer of health.

Dr. Lawrence Loh said during a weekly update Wednesday that Peel Region has been reporting a daily average of 75 to 100 cases over the last three weeks with a few spikes due to lab backlogs. The region includes Mississauga, Brampton and Caledon.

Loh said Peel Region has kept its new daily case count on a "slow linear burn" since Labour Day. Public health officials have been able to track the source of infections in 85 per cent to 90 per cent of cases through investigations and they don't believe the novel coronavirus is spiralling out of control.

Loh's comments come as provincial public health officials warn of a "remarkably high surge" that could be coming in October as cases have spiked this week. Some experts have described it as the beginning of a second wave of infections in Toronto and other urban areas of the province.

But unlike in Toronto, he said, growth in cases in Peel is not exponential.

"This means we are not quite seeing a second wave picture here in Peel yet. But the operative word is 'yet.' It can happen here too, especially if we are not careful," Loh told reporters at a virtual news conference.

When asked if his comments could encourage residents to be lax about rules, Loh said it's important to let Peel Region know that it is doing the right thing. 

"It really is a testament to our community coming together, recognizing the seriousness of this disease, and in a measure of positive reinforcement, to say: 'Listen, there's not a second wave yet and it's up to all of us to keep it that way,'" Loh said.

Loh said a second wave, like the first wave, is characterized by exponential growth in cases and widespread "undifferentiated community spread." Public health knows where most transmission is occurring, he added.

Mississauga Mayor Bonnie Crombie said residents and businesses, for the most part, are complying with public health guidelines.

"We are not in a second wave yet and I am very reluctant to close those very businesses that have kept our residents and our community safe," Crombie said.

Peel Public Health, however, is closely monitoring the daily case count in neighbouring municipalities, according to Loh. Cases are rising around Peel Region, he added. 

Public health officials are tracing a cycle of transmission between workplaces, homes and social gatherings. He noted the provincial picture is trending toward resurgence. "It's up to all of us to keep this under control," he said.

Social gatherings behind new cases, medical officer says

Social gatherings are driving transmission, he said, including house parties, coffee dates, Friday night dinners, backyard events, prayer meetings and large organized gatherings, such as weddings, he said.

Weddings have led to "unfettered close contact among many," he added.

"We have investigated exposures where members of the wedding party have shown up symptomatic and later tested positive," he said. 

"I cannot stress this enough. Right now, less is more. Please keep your numbers, your proximity and your duration low. If you are sick, even a little, don't show up."

Banquet hall owners should consider offering refunds and organizers of large events should consider rescheduling. "It's simply not worth it," he said.

Residents urged to shrink social circles, limit close contacts

Loh urged residents to shrink their social circles and bubbles, limit close contact to people within their households and essential supports. He also urged residents to continue wearing masks, washing hands, keeping their distance, staying home if sick, going into isolation and getting tested if symptoms appear.

Brampton Mayor Patrick Brown, at a separate news conference, said he is concerned about banquet halls and has told the province he would like to see a tightening of restrictions on their operations.

"Banquet halls still leave us very nervous. The tendency is large gatherings where people are celebrating a milestone event. They become more comfortable as the evening goes on and we're not seeing the same diligence and practice of the advice of public health," Brown said. "I do believe this is an area that needs to be looked at by the province."

Brown said Brampton residents have had to wait four to six days, even up to two weeks, to get test results. But the province is allowing the city to process more tests locally. In three weeks, Brampton will be able to process 800 tests a day. After that, it will up to 1,600 tests a day when capacity is added, he said.

Peel Public Health has investigated a cumulative total of 3,707 COVID-19 cases in Mississauga. Of these, 287 are active, while 3,189 are marked as resolved. A total of 231 Mississauga residents have died of COVID-19.

The public health unit has investigated a cumulative total of 5,575 cases in Brampton. Of these, 594 are active, while 4,886 are marked as resolved. A total of 95 Brampton residents have died of COVID-19.

With files from Lorenda Reddekopp