The top public health official in Peel Region says that there has been a six-fold increase in the average number of contacts being identified for each person who tests positive for COVID-19 in recent weeks, suggesting that residents are increasingly letting their guards down when it comes to physical distancing.

Dr. Lawrence Loh made the comment during his weekly briefing at Brampton City Hall on Wednesday morning. He said that for most of the pandemic the average number of contacts identified per case hovered around five but in recent weeks that number has increased to 30.

“This means more complex investigations, a higher risk of transmission and it also means that precautions are clearly not being followed,” he said. “Now that we are seeing resurgence in our community we need to fix this.”

The number of lab-confirmed COVID-19 infections in Ontario have been on the rise for more than a month now and Premier Doug Ford has warned of the arrival of a second wave of the virus that will “come at us harder than the last one.”

On Thursday, Loh told reporters that he does not believe Peel Region has entered a second wave yet due to the fact that officials are still able to identify the source of about 85 per cent of infections.

Loh, however, expressed concern about where the region could be headed in the coming days and weeks if residents don’t begin to significantly alter their behaviour.

“It feels like we are so close to something better left unknown. So while we are working hard to hold the line we need your help to stop transmission in the first instance,” he said. “Recent rollbacks on social gatherings, while disappointing for some, is a good start and I urge all of you to consider shrinking your bubbles even further to your immediate household, your family and your essential supports. Just because you can have 10 people over doesn’t mean you should.”

Workplace transmission a factor in recent rise in cases

While there have been some calls for the Ford government to revert to Stage 2 of its reopening plan in response to the rising number of COVID-19 infections, Loh told reporters that it his view that the “stages that were used were specific to reopening” and that any closures or restrictions that are put in place now will have to be more targeted.

He said that in Brampton , for example, workplace transmission has been a driver in the resurgence of cases with some infections being traced back to the 11,000 people that work in the transportations and logistics industry, many of whom are required to cross the U.S. border for work.

He said that there have also been infections traced back to a variety of other workplaces with some of those infections resulting from employees “letting their guards down” and not wearing masks or properly physically distancing while in break rooms.

“What we have so far in Peel and Brampton is a move from workplaces, to homes and into social gatherings and it is just this constant cycle that keeps going,” he said.