Another lockdown, UW outbreak, diversity cruiser: Top stories of the week

Provincial shutdown will help prevent harsher measures in the future, region's top doctor says

Local officials in Waterloo Region said a province-wide shutdown now will help prevent harsher measures in the future as COVID-19 case counts continue to increase locally and across the province.

Premier Doug Ford announced Thursday afternoon the entire province would move into a shutdown for four weeks as of April 3 at 12:01 a.m. This will shut down non-essential services like in-person dining, personal care services and gyms. Essential stores can operate at 50 per cent capacity, while non-essential retail can open at 25 per cent capacity.

The shutdown is a sixth, white-coloured tier in the government's framework, which is similar to the grey "lockdown" rules.

Speaking at the region's COVID-19 update on Friday morning, Medical Officer of Health Dr. Hsiu-Li Wang said the measures will be necessary to control the third wave of the pandemic.

"I recognize that stricter measures will be difficult and present hardships for many in our community, but they will help control the impact and extent of the third wave in Waterloo Region," she said. "An uncontrolled third wave will necessitate longer and harsher measures."

COVID-19 by the numbers (as of Apr. 4):

  • Waterloo Region: 12,135 confirmed cases, 243 deaths, 11,538 resolved
  • Wellington-Dufferin-Guelph: 5,249 cases, 106 deaths, 4,976 resolved
  • Brant County: 1,868 cases, 13 deaths, 1,751 resolved
  • Haldimand-Norfolk: 1,682 cases, 44 deaths, 1,549 resolved
  • Huron Perth: 1,426 cases, 50 deaths, 1,362 resolved

COVID-19 outbreak declared in all University of Waterloo residences

Region of Waterloo Public Health has declared COVID-19 outbreaks in all University of Waterloo residences. According to a Tuesday update on UW’s website, there are 10 new cases in people who live on or have visited campus.

The cases are all linked to a cluster from off-campus gatherings that included students from both Waterloo universities and include variants of concern. Local health officials said there are now 85 confirmed cases connected with the initial cluster and secondary spread, along with two probable cases. Public health has also identified 75 high-risk contacts.

According to public health’s dashboard on Sunday, the number of cases connected to the outbreak at the residences is up to 34.

These Waterloo Region pharmacies are booking COVID-19 vaccination appointments

Pharmacies in Waterloo Region are now booking appointments to administer COVID-19 vaccines. The province released an expanded list of pharmacies offering the AstraZeneca vaccine on Thursday. The age eligibility to 55.

Dr. Hsiu-Li Wang, the region’s top doctor, said the province asked for input on which pharmacies to include in the next stage of rollout.

"We did have input into the selection of pharmacies," Dr. Wang said at the region's COVID-19 briefing on Thursday morning. "One of the things we wanted to provide as input was a good distribution of the locations such that there was good coverage of our region and, in particular, areas where we see higher rates of COVID-19."

On Sunday, Astra-Zeneca vaccines arrived at the select Waterloo Region pharmacies, with some ready to start vaccinating patients the following morning.

Six kittens rescued from recycling bin in Tim Horton's parking lot

Half a dozen kittens who were left in a recycling bin at a Tim Horton’s parking lot were rescued just in time. The assistant manager of the Fergus, Ont. chain location found the six kittens last week.

“They just looked desperate,” said Samantha Bushey. “Like their eyes, they didn’t meow or anything, they just kept looking up at me.

“I’m just disgusted and upset. “I have not been able to get it out of my mind.”

Other staff members and a passerby also helped to get the kittens out. Bushey says she is grateful for the timing of when they were found on the Tuesday, as the recycling bins are emptied every Thursday.

“They had been there for a little bit and were covered in their own urine,” she said.

Waterloo regional police diversity cruiser design met with criticism

A Waterloo regional police project aimed at promoting diversity and inclusion is being met with a divisive response. Some community members say the new diversity-focused police cruiser design doesn't help address their concerns when it comes to policing, although regional police say it's only one part of a larger plan.

"I don't understand how painting a police car is going to stop systemic racism in policing," said Lori Campbell, director of the Waterloo Indigenous Student Centre at the University of Waterloo.

The vehicle is being called the service's first diversity-focused community cruiser design. It shows artwork that represents the African, Caribbean, South Asian and Arabic cultures.