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Don't let your guard down, region's top doc warns

'The virus is still circulating. It’s still there, like seeds waiting to germinate,' warns Dr. Charles Gardner
Screen Shot 2020-06-04 at 2.37.36 PM
Dr. Charles Gardner addresses the media in a briefing from his home office via Facebook live on Thursday, June 4. Screenshot

The region’s medical officer of health is cautioning residents of Simcoe-Muskoka not to get ahead of the province and assume controls can be relaxed as the number of new cases wanes.

“I think there’s some fatigue of vigilance,” said Dr. Charles Gardner, medical officer of health for Simcoe Muskoka, today. “I see examples in the community of people who are not physically distancing.”

But now is not the time to skip a handwashing or allow your two-metre bubble to shrink, he said.

“The virus is still circulating,” said Dr. Gardner. “It’s still there, like seeds waiting to germinate.”

In Simcoe-Muskoka, however, the spread of COVID-19 has slowed.

So far this week, the health unit has confirmed 15 new cases. Last week there were 26 cases in total. Two weeks ago the health unit reported 40 cases and four weeks ago there were 74 new cases reported in a week.

Yesterday was the first day since March 26 - and only the third day since the first case was discovered in the region - that the health unit reported zero new cases. Today the health unit reported two new cases in Simcoe County.

“It was a landmark moment for us,” said Gardner. “I commend all of us for our hard work in achieving this ... we have flattened the curve.”

Gardner credited physical distancing, reduced trips to the grocery store, the health unit’s quick contact tracing and follow up with confirmed cases.

“We need to keep it up,” he said. “People are wondering about the province’s reopening plan and proceeding with relaxing controls … We have to wait for the province to proceed on that.”

Gardner has advocated in the past for an order from the province allowing people to expand their social bubbles to add a few people from outside their household.

While he says he looks forward to the day, he cautions that order has not yet been given.

“I do see evidence that a lot of people are getting together closer than I would recommend,” said Gardner. “That is letting down your guard.”

He also noted it serves as evidence that people need more social outlets.

The health unit is working with other regional health units to come up with advice for municipalities for how to open up public spaces such as parks and beaches safely.

“I know there’s a great desire for people to use public spaces together,” said Gardner. “I do believe we have to learn to live with this virus and find ways to use public spaces in a safer way rather than just shutting them down.”

Simcoe Muskoka District Health Unit has confirmed a total of 482 cases in the region since the beginning of March. Included in those cases are 16 people whose primary address is outside of the region but who tested positive and recovered in the region. One of those people died, seven recovered in Muskoka and the remaining eight recovered in Simcoe County.

There have been another 52 people who have been tested in the region, received positive results, but have or are recovering outside of the region. Those cases are not included in the region’s total case count, but will have been reported to the health unit where they live.

Of the 482 cases confirmed in the Simcoe Muskoka region, 407 people have recovered, six are in hospital, 36 people have died and 33 people are still recovering in isolation.

Erika Engel

About the Author: Erika Engel

Erika regularly covers all things news in Collingwood as a reporter, photographer and community editor.
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