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Simcoe Muskoka among regions to reopen under Ontario’s Stage 2 plan

June 12, 2020   ·   0 Comments

Simcoe Muskoka has been selected to move forward under Ontario’s Stage 2 reopening plan which will allow more businesses to operate and loosen the current restrictions on social gatherings.

Hair dressers, outdoor dine-in services at restaurants or bars, places of worship and shopping malls will reopen under Stage 2 with proper health measures this Friday, June 12.

Meanwhile, restrictions on social gatherings has moved from a cap of five to 10 everywhere provincially.

“As a result of efforts of all Ontarians to stop the spread of COVID-19, many regions have met the criteria to move into the next stage of our reopening plan, including a decrease in new daily cases and sufficient hospital capacity in the event of any spikes in cases or outbreaks,” said Ontario’s Minister of Health Christine Elliott. 

Last Wednesday, Simcoe Muskoka recorded no new cases for the first time since March 26, which is a strong indicator the region is on the right path.

“This is certainly a landmark moment for us – cause for self acknowledgement. I commend all of us for our hard work together in achieving this,” lauded Simcoe Muskoka’s Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Charles Gardner.

“It’s not over by any means…the virus is circulating and it might be at much lower levels than it was but it’s still there, like seeds waiting to germinate, and we don’t want to give those seeds water to grow,” he stressed.

Simcoe Muskoka had 43 active cases and 83 percent or 422 out of the 501 confirmed cases were recovered as of press time. Meanwhile, New Tecumseth has eight people infected currently with 44 out of 53 who were cases now recovered.  

There continues to be a reduction in COVID-19’s prominence in the region every seven days, with about 20 last week, 26 the week before, 40 before that, and 44 the week prior. 

To continue on that path towards lower rates of infection locally, the public needs to remain vigilant by physically distancing, wearing masks in crowded areas, and avoiding in-person contact with individuals living outside of their household. 

“We do need to keep all of that up because we know there is still some circulation happening,” Dr. Gardner noted. “This could take off on us again if we relax our controls and let down our guard together.”

He said as more businesses open up it’s key for them to exercise all of Ontario’s requirements for reducing the risk of transmission. As well, patrons at businesses need to adhere to physical distancing and mask wearing to help prevent a second wave, Dr. Gardner explained.

There have been work-related outbreaks at places that have opened in parts of the Greater Toronto Area, demonstrating the importance of infection control measures.

In terms of reopening public spaces such as beaches and parks, Dr. Gardner said the Simcoe Muskoka District Health Unit (SMDHU) is working with others in public health to create guidelines that advise municipalities on how to do so safely.  

He noted that there’s been some “fatigue” among people with the infection control measures.

“I do see examples myself in the community of people who are not physically distancing and I think that the social impact on this is very wearing on everybody,” he said. 

“It’s important that we – when the time is right – find ways to extend our social group in a safe way,” Dr. Gardner continued. “But we know from our own modelling that we’ve got up on our website, that if we relax the controls to much we will get a surge of cases again.”

Dr. Gardner said raising awareness among the public about the importance of physical distancing is important for stopping COVID-19’s transmission locally. Toronto’s Trinity Bellwoods Park has circles drawn in the grass to mark spots where people can sit while respecting physical distance.

“I think we need to look at what we need to do in our public spaces and in our businesses to remind people and help them keep up the physical distancing,” Dr. Gardner noted.

By Sam Odrowski
Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

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