Waterloo Public Health to release breakdown of coronavirus numbers at first opportunity, CAO says

Some residents in Waterloo Region have been clamouring for Waterloo Public Health to break down its coronavirus numbers to a more local level.

A group called Cambridge Safe and Strong recently sent a letter to Ontario Premier Doug Ford, claiming it was an issue of transparency.

Waterloo Region chief administrative officer Mike Murray says Waterloo Public Health has heard the request and is working to address the situation but added that the local health unit is currently focusing its limited resources on other areas.

“Public health is in the process of doing so. When they can get around to that, they will make those breakdowns available,” he said Wednesday. “You know, right now, they’re prioritizing contact management, case management, as I think everybody would hope and expect them to do.”

Murray says Waterloo Public Health will release the numbers when it is able to ensure it is done in an accurate fashion.

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“As they can get to disaggregating or breaking down the regional statistics onto an area municipal basis, they’ll do that,” he said. “And then … it’s when that work is done and validated and verified, then they’ll make that information available to the public.”

Some members of the public have pointed to other regions such as Peel and Simcoe-Muskoka, which have offered up similar statistics to their residents. But Waterloo’s acting medical officer of health, Dr. Hsiu-Li Wang, says staff have focused limited resources on reporting on other areas, such as outbreaks in long-term care and retirement homes.

“We felt it was important because of the risk in these settings, in terms of information, to keep the public informed of,” she explained. “That is taking up a significant amount of our staff time to try to provide the numbers that helps the community understand what this situation is like.

“We’re we’re working on it, but we’re trying to prioritize what’s more important in the immediate term.

Wang says that even when the numbers are released, members of the public need to realize that they will appear higher in areas where there are long-term care and retirement homes, as there would have been prioritized testing. This means people should not feel a greater sense of safety because the numbers are smaller.

“This is an infection that we know spreads very quickly and has spread very broadly across our region already,” she said. “So there’s no reason to assume that one area would be at greater or less risk.

“I think we have to assume that everywhere in the region, there could be risk.”

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