Region of Waterloo council discuss impact of Delta variant

As Waterloo Region looks to slowly get out of the pandemic, the Delta variant has come in to focus for local leaders.

The B.1.617 variant, first detected in India and now known as Delta, was the topic of discussion at a regional council meeting Wednesday night.

As of Wednesday, there were 13 confirmed cases of the Delta variant in the region, but officials believe there are more based on current trends.

Top doctors cite the increased hospitalizations and ICU admissions in the past week, a recent outbreak where there were a higher number of cases in a shorter period of time, and a slower drop in case counts despite vaccination rates as evidence.

"The Delta variant is more transmissible and may cause more severe illness," said Dr. Juli Emili, associate medical officer of health for the region. "With less opportunities for transmission, there is less chance the variant can spread."

Concerns were also raised at the meeting over Waterloo Region's weekly incidence rate of about 54 cases per 100,000, which sits above the provincial average and Toronto's average of 40.7.

"Our rate is higher than Toronto, meaning we are having more spread or cases for the size of our population," said Dr. Emili.

She adds that the Delta variant in the community could be a contributing factor to this, along with long weekend gatherings and a slower start to vaccinations.

This discussion came on the same day Peel Region's medical officer of health warned of a possible fourth wave, with about a third of new cases in that region believed to be the Delta variant.

Doctors in both Peel and Waterloo Regions are urging people to remain cautious as the province begins to open on Friday, focus on safe outdoor activities, and continue to practice public health measures.