Step Two, big storm, statue in red: Top stories of the week

'Too early' to say when Waterloo Region can move into Step 2, top doctor says

Waterloo Region's top doctor says it's too soon to know when the area will be able to join the rest of Ontario and move into Step 2 of the reopening plan.

"It's too early to say at this time, but I know people would like to know as soon as possible," Medical Officer of Health Dr. Hsiu-Li Wang said at the region's weekly COVID-19 briefing on Wednesday morning. "I am committed to giving regular updates on our situation and we'll provide this community as much information as I know, when I know it."

The province moved into Step 2 as of 12:01 a.m. Wednesday, meaning personal care services can open as long as people wear face coverings. The step also allows for indoor and outdoor gatherings, with limits, and more capacity at retail stores.

Waterloo Region, however, will likely stay in Step 1 until mid-July as the region continues to deal with a spike in Delta variant cases.

COVID-19 by the numbers (as of July 4, 2021):

  • Waterloo Region: 17,755 confirmed cases, 272 deaths, 17,144 resolved
  • Wellington-Dufferin-Guelph: 8,175 cases, 125 deaths, 7,984 resolved
  • Brant County: 3,404 cases, 20 deaths, 3,377 resolved
  • Haldimand-Norfolk: 2,709 cases, 53 deaths, 2,642 recovered
  • Huron Perth: 1,897 cases, 57 deaths, 1,830 recovered

'Total annihilation': Waterloo Region residents survey the damage after Tuesday's thunderstorm

The thunderstorm may have only lasted a few minutes, but it left hours of work in its path. After Tuesday night's storm, Waterloo Region residents and emergency crews were busy Wednesday cleaning up downed trees and damaged property left by the nearly 120 km/h winds that blew through the area.

An 80-foot tall maple tree in front Lara Swift's Glasgow Street home in Kitchener was split in half, hitting her house before landing on the yard.

"Peeked out the window just in time to see the top of this giant tree just go," she said. "It was loud, loud and intense, I was really worried it was going to go through the roof."

A severe thunderstorm warning was in effect for Guelph, Kitchener, Cambridge and the Region of Waterloo, with officials calling off the warning around 6 p.m. Environment Canada issued the warning around 5:40 p.m. Tuesday as meteorologist tracked a thundestorm capable of producing strong wind gusts and nickel-sized hail.

The storm took down trees throughout the region. It also knocked out power to some 15,000 Kitchener residents, according to a tweet from Mayor Berry Vrbanovic.

Southwestern Ontario communities reflect on Canadian history in wide range of ceremonies

Reflection took many different forms around Southwestern Ontario for a very different Canada Day.

The sacred fire at the Healing of the Seven Generations in Kitchener was put out for the July 1 holiday. The fire was kept burning for the past five days in honour of the children found on residential school grounds and those yet to be found.

In Guelph, hundreds gathered for a solidarity walk, with organizers calling on the cancellation of Canada Day.

In Brantford, hundreds more participated in a unity walk towards the former Mohawk Institute residential school.

'It stopped me in my tracks': Victoria Park’s Queen Victoria statue covered in red paint

As Canada’s colonialist past comes under increased scrutiny on Canada Day, a symbol of that era has been defaced in Kitchener. A statue of Queen Victoria in Victoria Park was discovered to be doused with red paint on Thursday.

Other monuments seen as representative of Canada's colonial history were also targeted in Winnipeg on Thursday Statues of Queen Victoria and Queen Elizabeth II were pulled down by protestors at the Manitoba legislature.

Just over a year ago, a statue of Sir John A. Macdonald in Wilmot Township was covered in red paint. It was cleaned up, but then doused again. The statue was eventually put into storage after demonstrations calling for its removal, due to Macdonald's role in establishing the residential school system.

Now, the First Peoples Group tasked with determining its future is recommending an end to the plan to put up statues of all of Canada's Prime Ministers, a recommendation that Wilmot Township council will review on Monday.

Gypsy moth caterpillar infestations leaving people with rashes

Gypsy moth caterpillar infestations are causing many people to have an allergic reaction and leaving them with rashes. The Nature Conservancy of Canada said southern Ontario has had a bad infestation year for gypsy moth caterpillars.

"The populations actually go in these cycles," Kristy Ferguson said. "Every 10 to 12 years, you have this big population spike and we're in the middle of one."

People can remove them by wrapping burlap around the base of trees and flicking them into a bucket of soapy water. But, Ferguson said not to touch the caterpillars. A local family doctor said the rash can be treated at home.