Bracebridge’s Mayor Graydon Smith is continuing his push to have the District of Muskoka and Simcoe County reported separately when it comes to COVID-19 data.

Ontario’s stay-at-home order is set to end on February 16th. “I’m getting the same information as everyone else,” Smith says on what he knows. “All I know is that change is afoot and we hope it’s the change we’ve been asking for.” 

He – along with the Mayors of Huntsville and Gravenhurst – called for Muskoka to be separated from Simcoe in December as the region’s Health Unit was put into the provincial red zone. 

“The rate number is radically different from Simcoe to Muskoka,” Smith says of the current situation. As of Wednesday afternoon, there are over 737 active cases of COVID-19 in Simcoe, while there are 16 in Muskoka. “These Health Units are just lines that were created to work as service provision areas,” Smith says. “They don’t mean anything per se in terms of the way COVID spreads and how people get sick. It’s about how services get distributed.”

“The best stimulus for business is for business to be open,” he says, adding that local shops have suffered due to being grouped with Simcoe. Smith adds that he’s heard two things consistently from businesses in town. “Businesses want to be open and want a chance to make money, put people to work and contribute to not only their success but the success of the local economy.” Smith adds that they want to open responsibly, “Nobody is looking to throw their doors open and have too many people inside”

Smith says he’s heard from small businesses that they can and want to create an environment where COVID-19 protocols are met and followed.

“If we can put those two things together then the government isn’t having to write big cheques because businesses can’t be open,” he says. 

Since November when the colour code system was implemented by the province, Smith says he’s been in touch with higher levels of government about separating Muskoka from Simcoe. “We did see the potential to get caught up in someone else’s numbers,” he says. 

“I’m sure it would cause more work for the health unit, but that’s not a reason to not do it,” he adds. Smith goes on to say that he’s heard “a variety” of reasons for this to not happen, but says “none of them struck a chord” with him. He says that it’s a “justifiable choice” based on the data even if it may cause more work for those involved.

The stay-at-home order will end on February 16th for Simcoe Muskoka. It has yet to be announced what tier of the colour code system the region will fall under once the order is lifted. The Simcoe Muskoka District Health Unit’s Medical Officer of Health Dr. Charles Gardner said Tuesday he has not gotten any indication about what colour code the region will be put in. An announcement from the government on what level of the province’s reopening framework the area will be in is expected in the next few days.