Mark Clairmont |

MUSKOKA — As Simcoe and Muskoka enter the orange zone Monday — with tighter health restrictions — is it time for Muskoka to sever health ties with Simcoe?

MPP Norm Miller “thinks that makes sense” — and has told Premier Doug Ford.

With just 5 per cent of the 1,837 local total cases, Muskoka has comparatively avoided the worst of COVID-19 as experienced by its twinned communities to the south.

It’s bad enough that one person has died here in the northern half of the Simcoe Muskoka District Health Unit — and that 51 other people in those sister counties north and south have succumbed to the disease.

But with 89 cases here, Miller says “what I brought up with the premier is that Muskoka is very different from the Simcoe part of the health unit, especially you know with most of the cases in the urban area, whereas we have relatively few cases.

“So I just said I think it makes sense to have a further geographic delineation of the zones, because we are very different with very few cases.”

The Parry Sound-Muskoka member of the provincial Parliament said “Certainly the modelling … shows that if we don’t take action  — and yes across the province we’re in a second wave — the numbers could get much worse.

“So that’s why it’s so important we don’t heed those recommendations and do what we’re doing, which is assume the person beside you has COVID and wear a mask and wash your hands and all those simple things.

“We do those things then Muskoka should stay in the green zone and stay open.

“So I want everybody to do their part,” he said Wednesday in Bracebridge at a joint press briefing on Ontario’s budget with his counterpart to the south.

Simcoe-Muskoka moves from a yellow protect zone tomorrow to an orange restrict zone.

And while Simcoe North MPP Jill Dunlop was less committal when asked about separation and wouldn’t say if she supported a division of reporting and restrictions, she did say she and Miller “had talked to the premier about that.”

“It’s similar to the discussions in the early stages of the pandemic when we were against having cottagers come up to the area when we weren’t having any cases.”

However, it’s “an ongoing discussion” said the first-term parliamentarian and daughter of longtime Tory MPP Garfield Dunlop.

Simcoe North has also had fewer cases, with most cases in the Barrie and South Simcoe areas, including three large outbreaks in long-term care homes.

Miller went further.

“That’s specifically what I said. I actually did bring that up with the premier in a private conversation — that I personally think that makes sense.”

But based on that conversation will it actually lead to change?

“I don’t know,” said Miller.

“But as was pointed out, we rely on health advice as well, so I think it’d be something that would be getting discussed. Where it ends up I’m not sure.

“What I want to see is the whole province starting to improve and that requires all of us to do our part.”

The health unit reported 39 new cases Friday, bringing its pandemic total to 203 it’s highest weekly count since the coronavirus began.

One of the cases was a Lake of Bays man.

He was one of seven Muskokans who reportedly tested positive this week: 2 women from Bracebride and Huntsville Monday; a Gravenhurst man and a Huntsville woman Tuesday; and a man and woman from Muskoka Lakes Township Thursday.

MPPs Norm Miller and Jill Dunlop say they have both talked to Ontario Premier Doug Ford about dividing the Simcoe Muskoka District Health Unit into north and south.



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