Main image: Cumulative COVID-19 case map as of June 2, 2020 (COVID-19 Canada Open Data Working Group)
In his COVID-19 briefing on June 2, Premier Doug Ford said that despite extending the province’s state of emergency to the end of June, reopening of the economy will continue and that includes the possibility of accelerated reopening in some regions.
“Our health officials are working on the option of a regional model because we need a plan that recognizes the reality on the ground in different parts of the province. A plan that will help us reopen safely without taking unnecessary risks because a second wave of this virus is possible, so we must remain vigilant and we must continue to prepare for the long haul,” he said.
The Simcoe Muskoka District Health Unit’s medical officer of health, Dr. Charles Gardner, urged caution the same day. “With a regional approach it would be important for the Province to take into account not just what’s happening here locally but how close it is to other more heavily affected areas. That might very well influence their decision about what they do here… If we are allowed to open up services here that are not allowed to the south of us, there could be the potential of drawing more people here to use those services and the potential for an area that’s got a higher incidence of COVID having an impact on disease transmission here.”
Confirmed cases of COVID-19 are significantly higher in the Greater Toronto Area (GTA) than in Simcoe Muskoka, and that disparity increases in smaller communities within the region.
As of June 1, 2020, Greater Toronto Area public health units (Durham Region Health Department, Peel Public Health, Toronto Public Health and York Region Public Health) have accounted for 66.2 per cent of cases in the province to date.
In York Region, immediately to the south of Simcoe County, there have been 2,447 confirmed cases, 506 of them active, with an incidence rate of 199.6 per 100,000 population. Toronto has had 11,513 confirmed cases, 2,730 of them active, with an incidence rate of 335.1 per 100,000 population.
Simcoe Muskoka, meanwhile, has had 480 cases as of June 3—461 in Simcoe County and 19 in Muskoka—with 79 of them active and just one of those in Muskoka. The incidence rate for the entire region is 81.1 per 100,000 population—more than half that of York and a quarter that of Toronto.
Dr. Gardner said that while he sympathizes with the desire for people to get out more and see others, and perhaps flout physical distancing requirements, he asked them not to become complacent due to the low local case counts.
“I think it’s important for people to continue to be careful… we will always need to be careful until this pandemic’s been brought to an end with vaccination next year or whenever it would be,” he said.”We are always going to have to exercise that physical distancing…I would ask people to have patience, still be cautious and still abide by the restrictions.”
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