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COVID-19 spreads to Simcoe County

March 19, 2020   ·   0 Comments

Two new cases of COVID-19 have been confirmed in Simcoe County.

The first case is a man in his 70s at Royal Victoria Health Centre in Barrie and the most recent case is a women in her 40s at South Lake Regional Health Centre in Newmarket.

Both patients recently travelled internationally to areas with higher rates of COVID-19 and are being closely monitored.

“The bigger picture is that this is increasing rapidly in the province,” said Dr. Charles Gardner, Simcoe Muskoka Health Unit Medical Officer of Health. “There’s been a six-fold increase over a week period.”

“Almost all of those have been travel related but I think we’re getting to the point where we’re going to start to see community spread, so people need to heed our advice about social distancing, keeping within two meters of themselves and others when they’re out,” he added.

Dr. Gardner also stressed that it’s important to avoid crowds, avoid individuals who are ill, and hand wash often.

“The single most effective thing that people can do is hand hygiene, hand washing, hand sanitizers on a regular basis,” he said.

Dr. Gardner added that anyone who exhibits symptoms consistent with COVID-19 should self isolate at their home and if they’re 60 or above, have pre-existing medical conditions, or develop more severe symptoms they should seek medical attention.

Individuals who have symptoms of COVID-19 and have travelled outside of Canada in the last 14 days or were exposed to someone with COVID-19 can call Telehealth Ontario at 1-866-797-0000 to speak with a registered nurse, who can provide a clinical assessment.

The Town of New Tecumseth is currently engaged in discussions with Stevenson Memorial Hospital to setup an assessment site locally to screen for the virus, in an effort to remove pressure from the health system. Other sites are also being looked at throughout Simcoe County.

“We’re fully supportive of the measures being put in place by the province to reduce likelihood of spread, which is closing schools and disallowing large public gatherings,” Dr. Gardner noted.

“I think it’s important for people to monitor what’s going on in the media too because I think this is a changing situation and new requirements could very well come soon.”

As this is just the start of the outbreak, it is important for the public to do what they can to reduce its spread, while cases are still relatively low, according to Dr. Gardner

“I think it will become quite a bit worse before it gets better, we’ll see a substantial number of community cases,” he remarked. “We’re still very much at the beginning.”

Dr. Gardner said,so far, the virus has had a significant impact on health services, and the strain on the health care system will only increase as the situation develops, so it’s important that the public takes measures to reduce the spread.

“What we do right now is critically important,” Dr. Gardner stressed.

“We talk about flattening the curve, which means taking these social distancing measures and putting them in place, so the transmission of disease is…not happening nearly as quickly, so you don’t get as many cases happening all at once,” he added.

“This way the system can handle the increasing cases and it doesn’t become so great that it overwhelms the healthcare system and leaves the sick and very vulnerable to not getting the care they need.”

The Simcoe Muskoka District Health Unit has had to redeploy over 100 of its staff from other programming due to the number of calls the unit has received since the COVID-19 outbreak, Dr. Gardner noted.

He told The Times they’re getting roughly 30 times more calls and its expected to increase further.

Dr. Gardner said the virus is still in its “early days” and “there’s potential for major impacts on peoples lives.”

“People need to be prepared for that,” he remarked. “We have advised that people have sufficient supplies of food and personal items to be able to be at home or in isolation for up to 14 days.”

Following that advice going out more than a week ago, there’s been a substantial amount of buying at grocery stores, leaving shelves bare.

“I’m concerned that people are actually buying quite a bit more than they need to to follow our advice,” Dr. Gardner noted.

“People need to have enough, but not be excessive, because it has led to the inability of others to get what they need.”

Dr. Gardner said it’s important for the public to stay up to date with the latest information regarding the COVID-19 outbreak, but to avoid panic or hysteria.

“I want people to be aware and informed rather than alarmed and therefore be able to take measured steps to protect themselves and others,” he remarked.

To stay up to date on the province’s latest updates regarding COVID-19 visit

By Sam Odrowski
Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

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