COVID-19: Waterloo Public Health orders Mennonite schools, churches closed

Waterloo’s top doctor has issued an order to close many Mennonite churches and schools connected to the region.

Medical officer of Health Dr. Hsiu-Li Wang issued a Section 22 Class Order to members of the Old Order, Markham, Old Colony and David Martin Mennonite communities in Waterloo Region on Monday, which goes into effect immediately.

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The order mentions at least 93 positive coronavirus tests linked to the community with COVID-19 outbreaks in four workplaces and another seven being monitored.

Waterloo Public Health says it has received reports of people who are sick who are not self-isolating or getting tested for COVID-19.

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It says that Countryside Christian School in St. Clements voluntarily closed because of the number of cases at the school and number of students who were absent.

Some families of dismissed students indicated to Waterloo Public Health they would not be following proper isolation requirements.

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Waterloo Public Health says that in multiple instances, those who have tested positive have been unwilling to provide names of contacts.

A release from Waterloo Public Health says the order will close schools and church settings by Wednesday except for funerals with a small number of people attending.

Waterloo Public Health says the order “will enable enforcement actions, when appropriate, to slow the spread of COVID-19 in these communities.”

The order also requires members of the aforementioned Mennonite communities to follow specific public health instructions, such as wearing a mask and physical distancing, along with restrictions on gatherings.

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“We have benefited from the support of community leaders and many individual members of these Mennonite communities. Unfortunately, we have encountered insufficient cooperation among a number of individuals with public health requirements, including the requirements to self-isolate, not attend work when sick, and identify high-risk contacts for Public Health,” Wang said in a statement.

“As a result, orders are being issued as the risk to the community as a whole, as well as to other people with whom community members interact, has become too high.”

Those who do not comply with the order can be given a $750 ticket or a Part III summons with fines reaching up to $5,000 per day.

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