Mark Clairmont |

SIMCOE-MUSKOKA — The ball is now in the municipal court to protect Muskoka residents from people visiting here from locked down red zones like Toronto.

Dr. Charles Gardner, medical officer for health for Simcoe and Muskoka, said this afternoon he is writing to towns and cities “urging” them to restrict their limited recreational facilities to use only by local residents.

See that letter here.

He would also support businesses doing likewise.

This as 29 more cases were reported Tuesday Nov. 24 by the Simcoe Muskoka District Health Unit (SMDHU).

A male under the age of 18 from Georgian Bay Township tested positive through an educational setting.

After reporting glitches Monday and Tuesday, Ontario reported 1,009 cases today and 14 deaths; Quebec had 1,124 cases with 45 deaths; and Manitoba had 476 cases and 12 deaths.

Gardner, who says he has repeatedly told the province it should limit travel between zones to essential purposes, said that otherwise Simcoe and Muskoka are not that far away from entering a red zone lockdown.

That would presumably mean going shopping in an area with a higher incidence of infection — then going back home.

Just yesterday the region was declared an orange restrict zone with 30.4 cases per 100,000 population, which is the weekly incidence rate for Nov 15-21 and is not based on just one day of cases but all cases for that entire week, added communications spokesperson Kathy Dermott.

(In 2016, the last census, 540,249 people lived in the service area of the SMDHU; including 479,650 people in Simcoe County and 60,599 in the District of Muskoka.)

Gardner said that number only needs to rise to 40 to move to the red zone.

But he said the past three weeks have levelled the upward curve that had been heading for 50 cases per 100,000 population.

Gardner described “essential” travel as being for work, health, critical government services and education.

He said there are cases of residents in the southern part of the SMDHU who have worked outside the area and contracted the coronavirus and brought it home.

Gardner also issued a special statement today asking “all residents to increase their efforts to reduce the spread of COVID-19” after a spike in household cluster cases.

“Since September we have observed a substantial increase in household clusters of COVID-19 cases, and in each cluster, every person in the household has been infected,” said Dr. Gardner. “We are on track for much higher disease levels unless we take more action to curb its spread, and that includes actions as individuals within our work, social and household settings.”

He said they’ve had 40 clusters affecting 100 people, as the diseases is shared through work, family or school contacts.

He added he is also putting his “weight” behind a “letter of instruction” to business employers calling on them to avoid further “lapses” in the workplace environment.

It’s a “restating” of what’s already “required.”

His “legislative weight” has “greater power for enforcement” by police and bylaw officers to charge people, rather than under the labour act.

The letter also calls for employers to allow employees to work remotely where possible.

On a couple of other related issues…

  • Gardner said a provincial reporting glitch Monday and Tuesday that saw numbers overstated and understated did not affect Simcoe and Muskoka. He said he is completely confident in the numbers his team reports.
  • He also said said not to expect a quick rollout locally on vaccine front in 2021 until there are sufficiently high numbers to warrant its widespread use and distribution as caseloads thus far are insufficient in total.
  • And on a provincial report this afternoon that calls coming rapid testing a “game changer,” Gardner said it was piloted in Orillia and involves two swabs. One returns a result in about an hour and the second is dealt with in the normal way now and usually takes about two days and would be used as a control for the rapid test.
Dr. Charles Gardner says he would support businesses that want to limit service only to people who live in Simcoe and Muskoka in a bid to keep COVID-19 from spreading further north.
A Georgian Bay male under age 18 is the only Muskoka resident to test positive today.



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