Huntsville CAO Denise Corry told councillors at a special meeting held Thursday that the Simcoe Muskoka District Health Unit (SMDHU) has requested that the province also extend restrictions on the number of people permitted at social gatherings here.
Corry said the medical officer of health for SMDHU, Dr. Charles Gardner, concerned about the rising number of COVID cases, made the statement on Thursday at a weekly meeting with the region’s municipal CAOs.
That same morning the province announced that it would be lowering the number of people allowed at indoor and outdoor social gatherings in three regions of Ontario that have seen an uptick in cases: Toronto, Peel, and Ottawa.
Premier Doug Ford said the restrictions would take effect today, Friday, September 18. No more than 10 people will be allowed to gather indoors at social events in those regions, down from 25. Outdoors, a limit of 25 people will be permitted to gather, down from 100. Organizers of social events who contravene the permitted numbers could face a minimum fine of $10,000 while attendees could be fined $750.
The restrictions do not apply to events or gatherings held in staffed businesses or facilities.
Corry said the indication at the meeting was that COVID numbers are rising and “we need to take action now in that regard to ensure that it doesn’t turn into something absolutely terrible.”
She said those who tuned into the meeting were told that it was hoped the province’s latest announcement would include the Simcoe Muskoka area, but that did not materialize.
“But what Dr. Gardner indicated is that if our area wasn’t included in those numbers that he would be looking at actually passing an order for Simcoe Muskoka that would actually follow the same restrictions that were put in place for the three areas that were identified by the premier,” said Corry.
Asked who would be enforcing such an order, Corry said she thought it would have to be enforced by the health unit, which would be difficult due to resources.
“The clear message that Dr. Gardner got across to the area CAOs was that he highly recommends that people discontinue interacting with anyone outside of their household. He said it’s really important that people focus on not bringing people together. So, any effort that we individually or as an organization can make that would restrict the ability for people to congregate, he would not stress that enough. So that was a clear message that the CAOs did receive today,” she said, adding that based on the increase in confirmed COVID contagions in the health unit’s catchment area in the last week, “he said it’s quite a bit higher than anything that we’ve seen since the end of June. So as they anticipated, the second wave is certainly well underway.”
If Dr. Gardner were to proceed with an order for the Simcoe Muskoka area, places like restaurants, cinemas, convention centres, and recreational sporting events would be exempt from the requirement of up to 10 people indoors and 25 outdoors, said Corry. “It would still fall under the 50 and 100, so we will wait and see what our local health unit decides to do.”
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