Following reports of 964 cases in Simcoe-Muskoka, a class order has been issued by the local health unit to enforce COVID-19 requirements.

On Tuesday, the Simcoe Muskoka District Health Unit enacted Section 22 of Ontario’s Health and Promotion Act to protect peoples’ health and safety amid the pandemic.

The order, which is in regard to communicable diseases – states that a disease does or may exist — or that there is an immediate risk of an outbreak of a communicable disease in the health unit.

Medical Officer of Health Dr. Charles Gardner says cases of COVID-19 are sharply on the rise in our communities.

“We need to make every effort to protect residents of Simcoe-Muskoka from potential exposure to COVID-19,” he said. “This order enables us to enforce existing self-isolation requirements for all individuals who have been advised to do so in a quick and efficient manner, reducing delays that could significantly increase the risk to the health of our residents.”

The order takes effect Tuesday and remains in effect until Gardner declares it is no longer needed.

Gardner says while it may seem like a strong reaction – he doesn’t want the order to dissuade people from getting tested.

“I would hope this would not dissuade them. At the end of the day, if people comply, there’s really nothing punitive about it,” Gardner said. “We would only be enforcing for those who don’t comply – those who are willfully disregarding what we are requiring of them.”

The order applies to any person living or present in the SMDHU who has been identified as a person diagnosed with COVID-19, has the signs and symptoms, has been tested for and is awaiting test results,

It also applies to those who have reasonable grounds to believe they have one or more symptoms of COVID-19 or is a close contact of a person identified as a person diagnosed with COVID-19.

Dr. Gardner says that this order could remain in place through the remainder of the pandemic.

“That can be a long time; it could be a year or more. I would think we would be keeping it in place for the entirety of the second wave. At the end of the second wave, it would probably be a good time for us to review many things including whether it’s necessary to keep this order in place.

Those who don’t abide by the order may be liable for a fine of up to $5,000 for every day or part of each day on which the offence occurs or continues.

More information can be found on the health unit’s website.