Health officials caution about Super Bowl gatherings, return to school
Waterloo Region is seeing a downward trend in pandemic numbers, including active cases and outbreaks, a positive note ahead of Monday’s return to school for local students. The province-wide state of emergency also wraps up next week.
“Over the last few weeks, we have seen a number of new cases slow and move in the right direction. This is a strong indicator that the current provincial regulations and public health measures are working to slow the spread of COVID-19,” said medical officer of health Dr. Hsiu-Li Wang at the region’s weekly briefing on Friday.
Declining figures including public health managing 463 active cases of the virus, down from 600 a week earlier. Officials are monitoring outbreaks at 31 locations, a decrease from 34.
“Hospitalizations and ICU admissions have come down slightly but remain high,” noted Wang, referencing 13 individuals in ICU of the 27 people in the hospital.
Having last week seen the first case of the UK variant of COVID-19, the region has been monitoring such instances and implementing contract tracing. Three individuals have screened positive in Waterloo Region for COVID-19 variants of concern. One of the cases is a close contact individual to the confirmed positive UK variant diagnosed last week. All three have a connection to international travel.
“This is not unexpected, as the number of cases who will screen positive or subsequently be confirmed to have a specific variant of concern is expected to rise across Ontario as the provincial laboratory network has increased its capacity to monitor for and detect variants of concern,” said Wang.
“As Public Health Ontario and the provincial lab system continue to scale up screening, and genomic sequencing for various so monitoring and identification of areas, we expect more and more cases of variance and concern to be detected in Waterloo Region. Cases confirmed to be specific variants of concern are reported by health unit area on a daily basis by Public Health Ontario.”
Monday also marks the return to in-person learning for most students in the province.
“Regarding return to school, the Ministry of Education announced earlier this week that Waterloo Region schools will return to in class learning on February 8. I am supportive of this decision – now is the right time. From an overall health and learning perspective, it is best to return to in-person learning more able to do so,” said Wang.
“Over the last week, the province announced additional measures and investments for schools, including enhanced access to targeted testing if needed, in situations of concern about ongoing spread, increased access to masks, process for validation and daily screening by secondary students and staff and new guidance discouraging students from congregating before and after school.”
With the Super Bowl taking place Sunday, both Wang and regional Chair Karen Redman are asking residents to stay home and continue to comply with public health orders and the Reopening Ontario Act (ROA).
“I’m a little concerned that people may think because our rates have gone down because now school is going back to in-person learning that we can let up on our measures. And with Super Bowl, I’m a little more concerned because that is generally a time when people do get together. What I’m saying is that we have to be extremely cautious – we’re not out of the woods yet,” said Wang, noting the region is enforcing the same rules issued to other holidays throughout the pandemic.
Redman put it simply: “Stay at home,” she said, noting she will be making chili and chicken wings to watch Sunday’s game from the comfort of her home.