Two More COVID-19 Cases in Waterloo Region as Local Events Reconsider Cancellation

The news these days is pretty much all Coronavirus, all the time, and every hour brings new cancellations and quarantines, including, as of lunch hour on Thursday, the Prime Minister of Canada. With everything from major sporting events, movie premieres, conferences, and other crowd-filled activities being cancelled, everyone’s on guard for the next outbreak. Even here in Guelph.

This morning, Waterloo Region Public Health announced that they’ve received two more cases of COVID-19 in their area. The first case was announced exactly one week ago when a Kitchener woman in her 50s came back from a trip to Spain and Portugal with symptoms. She has been in self-imposed quarantine ever since.

The second diagnosed case is a woman in her 60s who returned to Waterloo Region on Tuesday after a tour through several Caribbean countries including bookended stops in Puerto Rico. The third is a man in his 40s who just returned from a trip to Las Vegas, and he was also diagnosed with symptoms after he returned home on Tuesday. Both took private transportation to the Grand River Hospital, and, according to the press release, the hospital staff took all possible precautions.

“This was not unexpected given the current situation around the world,” aid Dr. Hsiu-Li Wang, Region of Waterloo’s Acting Medical Officer of Health in a statement. “We continue to work closely with local hospitals and our health care partners to detect and manage potential cases of COVID-19. We are preparing to see additional cases in Waterloo Region, in line with the increasing number of cases in Ontario and Canada.”

Here in Guelph there has yet to be a diagnosed case of COVID-19, but people are very interested in talking to Wellington-Dufferin-Guelph Public Health about it. The health unit posted a message on its website Thursday that they’re experiencing a high volume of calls to their toll-free number for coronavirus information.

The University of Guelph, which has many experts in the field who are advising government responses, posted a message to its website on Thursday saying that they’re monitoring the situation on many fronts.

“The University takes the COVID-19 pandemic very seriously,” said a news release from the U of G. “The safety of our U of G community is our top priority. Please do your best to keep yourself healthy and to keep the virus off our campuses.

“The University has a robust pandemic plan and has developed continuity plans to maintain academic and administrative operations should a local outbreak occur,” it added.

Part of the U of G’s reaction to COVID-19 is to cancel all university-sponsored travel to affected areas identified by the Government of Canada as an area to “avoid non-essential travel” or “avoid all travel.” For people travelling for non-business reasons, the University is asking everyone to monitor their health, but if they’ve travelled to the Hubei province in China, Italy or to Iran, then they’re being asked to self-isolate for 14 days.

The U of G has a webpage dedicated to the campus response to COVID-19, and it lists the various precautions that members of the campus community should take.

With March Break next week, Guelph’s school boards are also thinking about travel and COVID-19. The Upper Grand District School Board sent a notice to parents to say that students and staff travelling abroad on the break should monitor their health carefully for 14 days after returning home, and though they didn’t site any concerns about specific countries, they’re asking people to watch local travel advisories closely.

The Wellington Catholic District School Board had much of the same advice, but they’re asking people who have been to either China or Iran to get in touch with Wellington-Dufferin-Guelph Public Health immediately.

In the general community, Royal City Mission has sent out an email to people saying that they are following the guidelines of Public Health, and asking anyone that feels sick to not visit the Mission. They’re also looking at additional measures that can be implemented. Meanwhile, the Guelph Mercury Tribune is reporting that Guelph Transit is not taking any additional precautions when cleaning buses in the same way that Grand River Transit and MiWay in Mississauga is.

In terms of area events, eMERGE executive director Evan Ferrari sent out an email today saying that the EcoMarket taking place at Old Quebec Street a week from Saturday is still proceeding, but he is monitoring the situation. At the same time though, up the road in Elmira, the annual Maple Syrup Festival for 2020 has been cancelled over three weeks in advanced of when it was scheduled to happen on April 4.

Finally, the Ontario government has left the door open to not come back after March Break if the situation with COVID-19 gets worse. The legislature voted unanimously to pass a motion that would allow them to *not* return to Queen’s Park to resume sitting after March Break.

“In these uncertain and unprecedented times, we must be prepared to take drastic action to keep people safe, including social distancing,” said Guelph MPP Mike Schreiner in a statement. Although Schreiner wasn’t in the legislature, he supports the intent of the government motion.

“Like all decisions regarding COVID-19, we must follow the advice and guidelines of health experts,” he added.

UPDATE – 4:12 pm

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