With COVID-19 cases rising in Simcoe Muskoka—and within the province as a whole—Simcoe Muskoka District Health Unit’s medical officer of health, Dr. Charles Gardner, is advising people to limit their contact with others outside their household as much as possible.
There have been more cases in Muskoka in the first two weeks of September (seven) than in the months of July and August combined (five). In Simcoe County the number of September cases so far exceeds all of those in August for that region.
That has Dr. Gardner concerned enough to advise residents to shrink their social circles. In his September 15 briefing, he recommended that people stick to their own households for close contact, or for people who live alone or who require assistance that could be one other household.
“At the time that we are commencing with schools, we are also having an increase in cases and that’s not a good combination at all,” he said. “…I think we need to revisit our control measures in the community. I know that there is active discussion at the province right now about additional control measures that could be in place but I would advise people at this time to actually stick with your household for close contact and essentially shrink down your social circle.”
He acknowledged that many people need to be at work, and that many parents need to send their children to school, but noted that so far large workplace outbreaks have been averted due to control measures and that protocols are in place in schools to try to reduce transmission of the virus in those environments.
“Those are environments that are less hazardous than what we’re seeing I think in people’s social lives. The great risk that remains that I believe is the underlying cause for this transmission is the connections that we make in our social lives, so that’s where we need to make a change in order to bring this under control,” he said.
“Control what you have control over,” Dr. Gardner added. “You can control the contact you have in your social life and that will help reduce your overall risk, and if we all do it will help reduce transmission in the community.”
Still, he reminded parents to screen their children for symptoms, keep them home and report to the school if they develop symptoms, and to seek medical assessment. “That’s critically important in order to avoid exposures in the school environment.”
Dr. Gardner has also recommended that people return to carefully considering when and where they go out, to avoid large, unregulated gatherings of people, and to maintain two-metres distance at all times. And, of course, to practise other control measures like frequent handwashing and wearing a mask in indoor public places.
He said that within Muskoka, residents need to take note of the recent uptick in cases.
“I think it’s important for people to note transmission in their community,” he said. “I think it’s very important for people in Muskoka to know that although your rates have been considerably lower [than Simcoe]…more recently you are experiencing an increase in rate, as is Simcoe, as is the Greater Toronto Area and much of Ontario. Your rates are going up, the risk is going up, the potential for transmission through contact in the community is going up.”
The big question on the minds of many is, has a second wave begun?
“I think we need to respond as though it has. It is on a sharp upward swing. It’s reflective of the levels of COVID-19 that we had even in Stage 1 of the province reopening,” said Dr. Gardner. “There is certainly an inertia that comes with an upswing in cases. There’s the cases you know about now and then there’s those that we don’t know about yet that are incubating that will show up in our numbers in a week or two from now…Even if we do a really good job now of breaking the chain of transmission, we’re going to see an upswing for a while before it comes back down again. The cases that are transmitting right now will emerge, and what we’d be preventing by acting now is the cases that follow them. … If we don’t [act now] it has all the potential of becoming a substantial second wave.”
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