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New Tecumseth and Simcoe County sees largest single day spike in COVID-19 following steady decline

June 26, 2020   ·   0 Comments

Things were going well for New Tecumseth and Simcoe Muskoka up until last Friday, June 19, when they both saw the largest single day spike in COVID-19 cases since the start of the pandemic.

Simcoe Muskoka as a whole saw 25 new cases, 12 of which were from New Tecumseth alone, according to the Simcoe Muskoka District Health Unit (SMDHU).

In contrast, just 24 hours before the surge on Friday, SMDHU announced zero new cases for all of Simcoe County and Muskoka District.

“We look at our case count over the last few weeks, we do see there was a decline over time and then an increase and then this sharp increase that we’ve had now,” said Simcoe Muskoka Chief Medical Officer of Health, Dr. Charles Gardner, during a press conference on Friday. “It’s much higher than usual; we typically get perhaps three cases a day and so to have 25 is the highest we’ve ever had in a single day for sure,” he added.

“The last time we had anything close to that was 22 cases on April 9, so quite a substantial jump.”

New Tecumseth’s second largest spike happened on May 19 when 11 new individuals tested positive.

Dr. Gardner said the recent surge in cases can’t be attributed to Ontario’s Stage 2 Reopening Plan as it’s still to soon for those cases to have incubated, although the Province will know soon the effect it has had.

Last week, there were 41 positive tests in Simcoe Muskoka, compared to 26 the week prior, and 19 cases the week before that.

In total Simcoe Muskoka’s had 575 cases, 81 per cent of which are now recovered, while New Tecumseth has seen 72 cases in total with 21 currently infected, and a recovery rate of roughly 70 per cent, as of press time.

Of the 25 new cases that were announced last Friday, 11 were asymptomatic, meaning they displayed no symptoms, while eight were symptomatic, and the other six are under investigation. Many of the asymptomatic cases were detected through COVID-19 screening requirements at workplaces, according to Dr. Gardner.

Farm Outbreaks

Nine of the 25 cases from last Friday came from testing conducted at two South Simcoe farms and one of those who tested positive was a seasonal migrant worker.

“We have seen in this province a large number of temporary foreign workers, migrant farm workers, who’ve contracted COVID-19 [and] it’s very important that they not be stigmatized in any way,” Dr. Gardner stressed.

“We must extend to them the same support we extend everyone else about avoiding transmission for COVID-19 and allowing them, certainly, to be identified as a case and help to overcome their infection.”

Dr. Gardner said it’s important to note Simcoe Muskoka has had zero cases of COVID-19 from migrant workers bringing the virus here from their country of origin.

“These cases of transmission in farms have been from locally acquired infections that then gets a foothold on the farms and transmits among the workers,” he explained.

Site assessments have been conducted on both of the farms by the SMDHU where they identified what could be done to prevent future incidents of COVID-19 spreading on the premises.

“There’s a high vulnerability because you have people working in close proximity to each other, under hard working conditions and you do often have bunk houses for temporary foreign workers to live in close proximity to each other,” Dr. Gardner said.

“You may have people that are driving together in groups as well. All of those situations you can easily get transmission and you need to have precautions in place.”

Some sanitation issues were identified at the farms by the SMDHU and managed.

The spike of 25 cases is an important reminder for the public and workplaces to remain vigilant of the virus, Dr. Gardner noted.

“I think this is an important point to reflect on, the importance of all of us maintaining the control measures to keep the curve flat to avoid a resurge of cases,” he said.

“As we open up the economy there’s a potential for more social interaction and a potential for more transmission and everybody needs to keep on their guard with that.”

Simcoe Manor Outbreak

Beeton’s Simcoe Manor saw its first positive COVID-19 test on Sunday, where a resident developed symptoms, leading it to declare its first novel coronavirus outbreak.

The long-term care home is working closely with the SMDUH to manage the outbreak and ensure all precautions are in place.

Staff at the home have continued to wear personal protective equipment at all times and screen everyone entering the building, which started back in March.

Between June 11 and 12 all of Simcoe Manor tested negative for COVID-19 and an immediate retesting of staff and residents is now taking place.

Going forward, testing will take place twice a month.

Preventative Measures

With community spread and unexpected spikes hitting Simcoe Muskoka, it’s important for members of the public to maintain two metres of distance from others when attending restaurants or other public venues.

“You need to practice your physical distancing, maintaining the two-metre setback and maintaining good hand sanitization,” Dr. Gardner stressed.

“Use of masks if you are in close contact with other people and of course you should be seeking to avoid that, but if you’re in an environment where you can’t avoid that, you need to be wearing the mask,” he continued.

“If you’re in small retail settings, if you’re in public transit, if you’re working very closely with people, those are all reasons to be practicing these control measures at this time.”

Many businesses in Simcoe County that restarted under Ontario’s Stage 2 Reopening Plan are now recommending customers wear masks, according to Dr. Gardner.

He said as the Province determines how Stage 3 will be rolled out, the important thing is not to rush.

On Wednesday, Toronto and Peel Region joined the rest of Ontario in Stage 2 of its reopening, allowing a longer list of shuttered businesses to operate, as daily and weekly case counts continue to decline provincially.

By Sam Odrowski
Local Journalism Initiative Reporter


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