Health officials say there are four confirmed cases of the Omicron variant in the Waterloo region.
According to a press release Monday afternoon, there are now nine sports teams with suspected or confirmed Omicron cases, along with additional high-risk contacts. This includes two sports teams identified by public health over the weekend. At a press conference Monday afternoon, Medical Health Officer Dr. Hsiu-Li Wang said that most of the cases are from hockey teams, along with some baseball teams.
“The situation with Omicron in our region is evolving rapidly,” said Dr. Wang.
There are more than 500 high-risk contacts associated with the teams and clusters, health officials said. According to Dr. Wang, some of those high-risk contacts are not residents of the Waterloo region.
“In the suspected groups and outbreaks of Omicron, we are seeing a rapid and extensive spread between contacts,” the press release said in part. “The large number of cases associated with these groups of sports teams is one more indication that Omicron is likely already spreading rapidly and widely in our community, as it is in other parts of Ontario.”
While Dr. Wang was unable to confirm the ages of the four confirmed Omicron cases, she did say that many of the cases associated with the group are between the ages of five and 11. There are also some who are children 12 and older. along with a wide age range from close contacts.
Dr. Wang said the teams have been traveling, but added that it is not always clear where they may have been exposed to the virus.
Health officials said they are focusing contact efforts on high-risk situations, such as outbreaks in schools and group-care settings. They are also working with schools, workplaces and sports associations to provide information on isolation and testing.
Under the provincial regulations for Omicron cases or suspected Omicron cases, the self-isolation rules apply to vaccinated and unvaccinated individuals.
Local officials encourage companies to allow their employees to work from home, whenever possible.
Schools and school boards have been asked to pause sports and extracurricular activities for the remainder of the year.
Dr. Wang added that various school cohorts have been affected and laid off due to this cluster of cases.
“In order to better protect our loved ones, help keep our schools and businesses open, and help prevent our health care system from being overwhelmed, I ask all of us to join together to reduce non-essential social contact with children. others, including sports, contact, as we continue to increase our community’s immunity against serious diseases, “said Dr. Wang.
He added that there is preliminary evidence that two doses of the COVID-19 vaccine are not as effective against Omicron. Anyone who is eligible for a booster shot is encouraged to receive it as soon as possible.
Starting Monday, people over the age of 50 can get a third dose. That will be extended to anyone 18 and older starting January 4. Six months, or 168 days, must have passed since the second dose.
Dr. Wang said they are working closely with the province to monitor the Omicron situation, adding that Ontario’s chief physician may provide further guidance this week.