Simcoe Muskoka District Health Unit (SMDHU) reported today that there is another case of COVID-19 in Huntsville. The man, in his 60s, is recovering at home. The case is under investigation and the health unit’s contact tracing is underway.
This brings the number of cases to date in Huntsville to nine, for a total of 21 in Muskoka. Both of the current active cases in the region are in Huntsville: this new case as well as a woman in her 70s which was reported on June 8.
There have been a total of 527 cases within the health unit’s catchment area—506 in Simcoe County, 21 in Muskoka.
As more businesses reopen and people begin to move around the province more, Dr. Charles Gardner, the health unit’s medical officer of health, reminds people to remain cautious as we learn to live with this virus.
Previously, the health unit had taken the position that people shouldn’t be using their secondary residences. “That was because of the much higher rate of transmission of COVID-19 in municipalities south of here and that therefore there would be the potential with large numbers of people coming here to transmit locally. My concern at the time was to have people emerge as cases while they are at the cottage and potentially burden or overwhelm the healthcare system. We have been very fortunate that that hasn’t happened…,” said Gardner.
The health unit now advises those travelling to their own cottages or renting one to practise physical distancing and remain at their cottages for the most part, being very careful about going into the community, and bringing supplies with them to reduce the amount of local interaction.
“I think at the end of the day people will actually travel. We need to learn to live with this virus and so that means managing risk associated with travel,” he said. “We need to work with our businesses, our restaurants, around the practices they need to have in place to reduce risk to allow people to physically distance.”
He added that health units across the province need to continue to raise awareness “about the importance of people physically distancing no matter where they are, about handwashing no matter where they are, and about wearing masks if they are in close confinement with other people either indoors or outdoors” particularly for people coming from high-incidence locations to those with low incidence numbers. “It still would be better if people be mindful of the potential to carry the virus with them to another area and to, where possible, look for recreation in their own community at this time.”
Following several weeks of declining case numbers within Simcoe Muskoka, there was an increase last week to 26 cases, up from 19 the week before. In the two days so far this week, there have already been 15 cases reported in Simcoe Muskoka.
“We do know from our modelling that if we let these things go, that we will get a surge again,” he said. “We’ve had a bit of an increase lately and I think that’s a cause for a warning for us all that we need to keep working on the physical distancing to keep the pandemic in check.”
The opening of the province will make contact tracing ever more important, said Dr. Gardner. “We are fully committed to doing it well and that means contacting all cases within 24 hours of them being reported to us as a laboratory-confirmed case, and then following up quickly with their contacts. The challenge for us will be to keep up that standard of response while we also repatriate staff back to doing other things that we need to do [in public health]… The challenge will be to keep up sufficient resources for COVID-19 while we also do those other things. It will be a strain.”
The health unit takes “a detailed history for all the cases and we find out where they would have been, and we certainly concentrate on those places where they would have had contact with a person within two metres without a mask or 15 minutes or more,” Dr. Gardner added. If a case had been in close contact with an employee or others, the health unit will follow up with them when they can be identified. The health unit has to date said that it will not release the specific locales where a case has been to protect the identity of the infected person. “We’ve not yet been in the situation where we felt there was that kind of intense close contact with strangers where you would have to go public and let everybody know about [a location]. That’s certainly a possibility but to date we haven’t had that kind of situation.”
See all of our COVID-19 coverage here.
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