New COVID-19 map shows prevalance of cases in Waterloo neighbourhoods

After multiple requests, Waterloo Public Health has added a localized map to its COVID-19 dashboard which shows where the cases are located within the region.

“You will notice that two neighborhoods stand out due to the influence of long-term care and retirement home outbreaks,” Dr. Hsiu-Li Wang, Region of Waterloo Public Health’s acting medical officer of health, said.

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The two neighbourhoods she referred to — Forest Heights/Forest Hill/Lakewood and Vanier/Rockway — have the highest number of cases per 100,000 in the region and are home to some of the largest outbreaks the area has seen.

Wang said she is concerned that the areas will be stigmatized by the map.

“It can create an erroneous impression or stigma that that’s where the virus and infections people are,” she said. “So I’d like to be clear: All areas of Waterloo Region are affected by COVID-19.”

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The map does have the option to filter with and without outbreaks.

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In doing so, the Forest Heights area tends to blur in with the rest of the map while Vanier/Rockway is the worst, but the difference between it and several others becomes negligible.

Wang says that while some areas have had more cases than others, the risk of catching the virus remains widespread as testing was concentrated on certain areas when it first began.

“The number of positive cases in our region and in each neighborhood has been significantly influenced by testing guidance, especially in the earlier stages of the COVID-19 response, where testing was limited to only certain groups and settings at greater risk, such as long-term care homes and retirement homes,” she explained.

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“So areas with lower rates of COVID-19 should not be considered safer, it should be assumed that the risk of acquiring COVID-19 is present throughout the region. And we have to practice the recommended public health measures everywhere in the region.”

After Toronto and Hamilton released more localized maps, Wang says Waterloo Public Health received more inquiries asking for one here.

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She is hoping the map will also showcase outlying issues that may need to be explored.

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“We have a lot of cases now and we can start to look at if there are areas in our region where we might need to potentially look closer if it’s seemingly associated with increases that aren’t easily explained,” Wang said.

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