Mark Clairmont | MuskokaTODAY.com

SIMCOE-MUSKOKA — Rising variant cases — including 9 now in Muskoka — are creating “worrisome” trend that could lead to a return to lockdown in Simcoe-Muskoka.

Dr. Charles Gardner said this afternoon that he is “seriously thinking” of recommending a return to stay-at-home orders to provincial health officials who have the authority to do that.

He told the media part of the problem is that many Muskoka workers are commuting to the Barrie area, which is one of the most virus-prone parts of the province.

“I’d note we’ve had some incidents of transmissions between Simcoe and Muskoka of individuals living in one location and (travelling) to another for work.”

He called them “indicators of concern” that could lead to a “third wave” in Muskoka and Simcoe.

He said variants of concern (VOC) cases in the region have gone up from 64 to 132 to 151 the past three weeks.

With a further 216 suspected after a initial testing.

All of them the “more transmissible version of COVID-19.”

But even as COVID cases have been in decline, he said they’re now “going in the wrong direction.”

Even Roberta Place in Barrie is still getting new VOC screenings after its deadly outbreak was declared over last week.

A lot of Gardner’s “concern” surrounds a 30 per cent increase between last week’s cases and those the week before.

Last week there were 275 COVID cases after heading down for three weeks before — from 307 to 275 to 210.

That’s a 30 per cent increase in one week.

Gardner noted the “geographic spread” of the vaccine now includes Muskoka.

He said that in Muskoka 2 of the variant cases are located at one agricultural site, 5 are at one food and beverage business, and 2 others are out among the community.

He wouldn’t identify the locations of those outbreaks or where the 2 people live.

This follows 8 more deaths the past week in the Simcoe-Muskoka District Health Unit (SMDHU) now totalling 187.

And with 76 cases alone so far this week, the region’s cases per 100,000 exceed the provincial average when previously they were about half.

So he will be watching the numbers even closer in the coming days.

Today there were 61 COVID cases and 29 new variant cases since yesterday.

“We’re going in the wrong direction,” he said.

It’s also why he is still urging all residents in the SMDHU to stay at home and act “as if it is a requirement.”

Gardner also added that while it’s still too early to say, summer camps in Muskoka could again be threatened after being forced to close in 2020.

He said Muskoka has the most camps of any one region in Ontario and account for about one third of all summer camps in the province.

A return to lockdown in Simcoe-Muskoka could see shoppers like Ron and Jeanette Leach having to stock up with more groceries if case counts go up and a stay-at-home recommendation to the province is called for.

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