Peel Region’s top public health official is now acknowledging that the second wave of the COVID-19 pandemic is underway in Brampton and Mississauga, weeks after officials in other parts of Ontario made similar declarations.

Medical Officer of Health Dr. Lawrence Loh had said as recently as last week that Peel Region was not technically in a second wave because officials were still able to pinpoint the source of transmission for approximately 80 per cent of all cass.

But during a briefing on Wednesday he said that the “data is now consistent with the arrival of the second wave of the COVID-19 pandemic in Peel” and that residents need to restrict their in-person contact to only people they live with and essential supports.

His comments came after Peel Region reported an all-time high of 289 new cases on Sunday.

“We are certainly concerned because over the weekend not only did we see a rapid case rise over 48 to 72 hours but we were starting to see additional spread outside of known transmission chains so that suggests that the disease is now wider spread in the community which is why we are seeing our second wave here now,” he said.

Both Brampton Mayor Patrick Brown and Mississauga Mayor Bonnie Crombie expressed reservations with the Ford government’s decision to move Peel into a modified version of Stage 2 earlier this month, arguing that health officials in the regions had not traced any “forward transmission” back to bars and restaurants.

Loh, however, told reporters on Wednesday that the decision to move Peel into a modified Stage 2 on Oct. 10 “may have come at just the right time to help reduce interactions somewhat.”

The problem, he said, is that it coincided with a Thanksgiving holiday that is now believed to be a major driver of infections in the region.

“It is very likely that the rise we are seeing with Thanksgiving may have been attenuated somewhat by modified Stage 2,” he said. “At this point in time it is really about waiting and seeing. My hope is that we are going to see this plateau and then over the next week or two we will see it start to drop because that would be in line with the expectation of those two pieces (Thanksgiving and the arrival of Stage 2) cancelling out.”

Peel Region’s rolling seven-day average of new cases is now 196.7. That is up 38 per cent from the previous week.

Given the rising numbers, Loh said that Peel residents need to assume that everyone outside of their household is “harbouring the virus.”

He also said that places of worship, which are not subject to any additional restrictions under the modified version of Stage 2, should nonetheless “consider a return to virtual or online celebrations where possible.”

Crombie says Peel now at a ‘critical moment’

Speaking with reporters during a subsequent briefing on Wednesday afternoon, Mississauga Mayor Bonnie Crombie said that Peel is now at a “critical moment.”

“We need to be vigilant and we have a chance right here and right now to make sure we don’t overwhelm our community and overburden our hospitals,” she said. “Our collective goal has to be avoiding large gatherings to prevent a longer lockdown for our struggling businesses, to jeep our schools open and of course to prevent our long-term care homes.”

Before the Ford government moved Peel into a modified version of Stage 2 Crombie held a press conference, in which she made the case that further restrictions and closures “were not warranted” in Peel.

She has, however, since changed her tone and on Wednesday conceded “closing restaurants and gyms is a global best practice.”

Nonetheless, she noted that she is preparing a letter that will ask Loh to prepare three different scenarios for the road ahead, including one that would make recommendations on modifications and changes that could be made to ensure the safe reopening of some businesses if the province permits it next month.

“I will share that our numbers are starting to stabilize - we saw a reduction Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday - and I am very, very hopeful that if this pattern in Mississauga continues we can find a safe way to reopen those business with the caveat of other restrictions whether they be capacity limits or early closings," she said, "Whatever it might be I want to get our businesses back open."