REGION OF WATERLOO PUBLIC HEALTH
The number of variant cases continues to grow in Waterloo with 32 total variant cases identified. Four cases have been confirmed as the B.1.1.7 variant, the variant first detected in the UK. An additional 28 cases have screened positive for a variant but the specific variant has not yet been determined. This is not unexpected given the growth of variants in Ontario, but underscores the imperative for Waterloo Region residents to continue practicing with upmost vigilance the recommended public health measures. This includes staying at home unless you need to go out for essential reasons and avoiding gathering with others outside of your household, to slow the spread of COVID-19, including its variants.
Over the weekend a staff member of a congregate setting screened positive for a variant of concern. Variants of concern spread more easily than other variants and in vulnerable settings such as congregate care settings spread can be more likely. An outbreak has been declared in this setting and 29 COVID-19 cases have been identified related to the outbreak at this time. We expect more cases will be identified, including more variants of concern, and we are working closely with the facility as well as health system partners to ensure appropriate infection prevention and control practices are in place and that they have the necessary support. In order to protect privacy for this vulnerable setting, the location will not be identified publicly.
Additionally, a staff person at Père-René-de-Galinée Catholic High School has screened positive for a variant of concern. Affected cohorts of students and staff have been dismissed. Public Health has initiated enhanced case and contact management for the case and affected cohorts. An outbreak has not been declared at this time as there is only one case but we will continue to monitor the situation closely.
Public Health is treating every single case of COVID-19 as a potential variant of concern to begin limiting the spread of variants before a variant is identified. For all cases of COVID-19, Public Health is conducting enhanced case and contact management. This enhanced process includes but is not limited to:
- Using a lower threshold to identify who is considered to have had a high-risk exposure
- Recommending enhanced testing
- Advising contacts and their household members to continue to stay at home except for essential reasons
It is not unexpected to see an increase in variant cases identified, variant cases connected to settings such as schools, workplaces, long-term care and other congregate settings, and outbreaks. We can expect to see the number of cases in Waterloo Region continue to grow as they have elsewhere in Ontario. Across Ontario, 401 confirmed cases of variants have been identified, this is the number of confirmed variants, not the number who have screened positive, which will be much higher. Provincial modelling expects that variants will become the predominant strain in March.
Residents are advised to continue following public health measures to protect against the spread of COVID-19 including variants.
- Avoid social gatherings with those outside your immediate household
- Limit non-essential trips outside your home
- Practice physical distancing
- Wear a face covering
- Wash your hands often with warm water and soap or an alcohol-based hand sanitizer
- Avoid enclosed, poorly ventilated spaces and crowded places
- Stay home when you are sick, isolate from household members and schedule an appointment for testing
Going forward, with the number of variants in various settings, Public Health will not be providing routine individual setting updates, but will continue to provide updates on the overall situation regarding variant cases at the weekly media briefings.
To view local totals for variants of concerns view the Waterloo Region COVID-19 summary dashboard regionofwaterloo.ca/