It was a dire warning from Waterloo Region's Medical Officer of Health on Monday.
While it was the first day of being moved into the province's 'Orange' category of restrictions, it appears that will not last long.
Dr. Hsiu-Li Wang told council she has already asked the province to move Waterloo Region into the 'Red - Restrict' zone, which would entail more restrictions for local businesses, gatherings and more.
"Because of the choices we've already made, which are being reflected in our rates today, we will undergo a difficult period of restrictions," said Dr. Wang. "Our trajectory is already in motion, like that of a speeding train, towards the Red zone and beyond."
Rates of COVID-19 are now accelerating faster than Halton and Hamilton, which are already in the Red zone. Dr. Wang explained that she is simply asking the province to move the region into its proper category.
"Our case rates have more than tripled in the last two weeks. Our outbreaks have rapidly expanded in size and complexity. Our hospitalizations have increased significantly in the last few days, and an increase in deaths will start to follow."
Those hospitalizations tripled in the 72 hours leading up to the meeting, where Dr. Wang's concern was apparent in the tone of her voice.
"Waterloo Region, right now unfortunately, is one of the fastest surging areas in Ontario," she said, noting the Province's projections of 6,500 cases per day province-wide by mid-December.
"That would equate to, proportionally, around 260 cases per day in Waterloo Region if we do not grow faster than the province. Unfortunately, right now, we are. We are surging, and our case growth is outpacing that of the province as a whole."
Dr. Wang also noted that the province is on track to have more cases than some countries in Europe which are under lockdown if we continue on our path. She also explained that positive cases in young people are beginning to spill over into the older population, and as that continues, the mortality rate will also increase.
She also noted that there is a balance to be struck with putting in restrictions herself, as doing so without the Province would disqualify local businesses for some financial supports from the other levels of government.
Above all, she pleaded with the public to take immediate, dramatic action regarding their social interactions.
She said that reducing contacts will be the best way to soften the impact that this wave will have on the community, but we are past the point of preventing serious restrictions.
"If we choose to act now, before it gets worse, we can mitigate the period of time we will be under significant restrictions," Dr. Wang said.
Provincial officials, meantime, are not ignorant to Waterloo Region's soaring numbers. Some 30 officers have been deployed to help enforce public health guidelines, with Regional Chair Karen Redman noting that the time for education has passed, and enforcement will be the focus.
Redman also asked residents to reflect on their actions up to this point.
"If you were to receive a positive COVID test today, how many close contacts have you had that Public Health would need to follow up with? Have you been diligent in wearing a mask, and socially distancing, so that those contacts could possibly be considered not high-risk?"
Redman has also urgently requested skilled and trained contact tracers from the Provincial and Federal governments.
"With each case and outbreak, we are seeing a very high number of contacts," she said. "This requires hours of contact tracing by Public Health officials. We can't do this alone, we need all levels of government's assistance to help with contact tracing."
Dr. Wang blamed a relaxation of public health measures in the region, though she's not sure what caused it.
She noted that social interactions have driven the dramatic rise in cases, including many at businesses that are employee-only settings.
"In business settings, we're seeing a lot of outbreaks," she said. "We see, unfortunately, too many instances of workers letting their guard down with their coworkers, then infection being passed between coworkers. Or, the business is not really enabling or enforcing distancing and masking in employee-only areas."
"Throughout this pandemic, Waterloo Region residents have shown they are willing to step up, and do what it takes to beat COVID, and help protect one another. We can all make this choice ourselves, before we have no other choice, and before too much damage will be done to businesses, livelihoods, and lives. Please, let's limit our trips outside to essential purposes, and cease all social gatherings. We need to do this now, and we can do this together."
So far, there is no criteria from the Ontario government for putting an area into a full lockdown.
Dr. Wang calls for a dramatic decrease in social interactions in Waterloo Region. Asks residents to stay home except for absolutely essential reasons such as work, groceries, exercise. Also, calling for no more visitors to households except those who are essential.— Ben Washyourhands Eppel (@570beneppel) November 16, 2020