Starting on Monday, November 23, Simcoe Muskoka will move to the orange “Restrict” level of the province’s COVID-19 response framework.
Premier Doug Ford announced the decision today, which also moved the Peel and Toronto health regions into full lockdown.
“With the numbers rising rapidly in certain regions, we have to make the tough, but necessary decisions now to protect our hospitals, long-term care and retirement homes, and every person in this province,” said Premier Ford. “We cannot afford a province-wide lockdown, so we are taking preventative action today by moving Toronto and Peel into Lockdown level restrictions and other regions into higher levels of restrictions. We need to take decisive action to stop the spread of this deadly virus.”
A news release from the province noted that public health units “will stay in their level for a minimum of 28 days, or two COVID-19 incubation periods, at which time the government will assess the impact of public health measures to determine if the public health unit should stay where they are or be moved to a different level.”
Although cases in Muskoka have remained low to date—there have been 89 confirmed cases in the region since the pandemic began, six of which are currently active—Simcoe County has seen much higher numbers and has 232 active cases, of which 10 are in hospital.
Comments by Dr. Charles Gardner, Simcoe Muskoka District Health Unit’s medical officer of health, in his weekly briefing on November 17 foreshadowed today’s announcement of the region’s move from the yellow “Protect” level to the orange “Restrict” level. He noted during that briefing that if numbers in the health unit’s catchment area continued to rise, more restrictions would be needed.
Gardner also said that moving the region to the orange level would require some further control measures, but that they are not as drastic as those in the red “Control” level. Among the changes that residents can expect as a result of the move to the orange “Restrict” level are:
- Restaurants and bars can have a maximum of 50 people seated indoors. Liquor can only be sold or served between 9 a.m. and 9 p.m. (in the yellow “Protect” level, it could be sold or served until 11 p.m.). No more than four people can be seated together (down from six in the yellow level).
- Sports and recreational facilities can have a maximum of 50 people per facility at any one time “in all combined recreational fitness spaces or programs (not pools, rinks at arenas, community centres, and multi-purpose facilities)”
Events and social gatherings remain restricted to 10 people indoors and 25 people outdoors while organized public events and gatherings are limited to 50 people indoors and 100 people outdoors.
The framework also advises that “non-essential travel from areas of high-transmission to areas of low transmission should be avoided.”
Dr. Gardner said he believes that people are experiencing a lot of COVID-19 fatigue. “It’s increasingly difficult for people to abide by these restrictions in their lives,” he said. “It’s hard to overcome. If we are to bring this under control, it’s going to have to be people finding a way to overcome the fatigue and also [follow]the control measures that have been put in place. Those control measures are really meant to help people, remind people, give them support to abide by these practices in their lives.”
He said that in particular, people should not let their guard down at work or school, following all of the control measures in place to help ensure they don’t bring the virus home, and to not gather with family members beyond their own household. “Once it’s in the home it can be very difficult to prevent it from spreading…we can end up with really high what we call attack rates in the home—a high percentage of people in the household infected because they’re in intimate contact with each other…People need to be aware of what it takes to be part of the solution and not become part of the pandemic, part of the outbreak.”
For full details on the orange “Restrict” level, visit ontario.ca/page/covid-19-response-framework-keeping-ontario-safe-and-open#orange.
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