COVID-19 Confusion in Waterloo Region – Making Sense of it All

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Back in March, it was no surprise to wake up every day to the news of increasing COVID-19 cases in the Waterloo Region, paired with an overwhelming need for hospitalization at local hospitals. At its peak, St. Mary’s General Hospital in Kitchener had 31 COVID-positive patients in the spring.

Now as the long anticipated second-wave of the virus settles in, numbers are rising but the need for hospital beds is much lower than back in the first wave. Is the virus weaker? Are you less likely to contract COVID? Not exactly. Here’s what has been going on: 

The contrast between the first and second wave of COVID-19 in Waterloo Region is the difference in age groups of those contracting the virus. You may remember hearing about the long-term care facility in Kitchener, Forest Heights Revera, which had 178 cases among residents, 73 in staff, and 51 deaths overall in the spring. Out of the 1,066 cases in the spring, 39 per cent were people over the age of 60. 

In the second wave, a younger age bracket has taken the first spot for the highest number of COVID-19 cases. This age group is more commonly able to recover from home as the effects are less detrimental compared to those in older age groups. This trend is also evident in the numbers of deaths in the second wave. As of Friday, the only person in the region who has died from the virus was over the age of 70. 

As for the long term care residents this fall, they have all been contained to less than three cases in the region. Dr. Ahmad Firas Khalid, a professor in health policy at Wilfrid Laurier University, spoke of this positive change.

“The reason that we are not seeing large outbreaks at long term care facilities is because the government has invested effort in trying to make sure that what happened last spring does not happen again,” Dr. Khalid said.

While this sounds like a promising report, Dr. Khalid urges that hospitals must prepare for the potential rise in hospitalization numbers. Although, if proper measures are put in place this winter, we can remain optimistic for the increased safety and health of the region.