“I’ll call it a small victory,” Bracebridge’s Mayor Graydon Smith says.

The Simcoe Muskoka District Health Unit (SMDHU) will move to the Red-Control zone as of Monday, March 8th at 12:01 AM. This comes after our region was in the Grey-Lockdown zone for a week.

“My recommendation of a return to Red-Control is based on information that our overall incidence of COVID-19 has remained stable over the past two weeks despite the rise in the B.1.1.7 (UK) variant,” SMDHU’s Medical Officer of Health Doctor Charles Gardner said Friday in a letter to residents in Simcoe Muskoka.

As of Friday’s update from the Health, there are 217 cases of B.1.1.7 in its medical region. Dr. Gardner said that cases of variants of concerns stabilized over the past two weeks.

“I think it’s a recognition that hopeful things are getting better and that doing that restriction for a week maybe has helped that situation,” Mayor of Gravenhurst Paul Kelly says. He, along with many other residents and political officials in Muskoka, believes the move to lockdown Simcoe Muskoka wasn’t necessary. He adds that there were people outside of Muskoka that were against this as well.

“I was a bit surprised,” Huntsville’s Mayor Karin Terziano tells the MyMuskokaNow.com newsroom about the news of us leaving lockdown. “I was expecting this to last for the next couple of weeks. So, I was surprised to hear that we were going back to red on Monday.”

She says that this is great for businesses – especially restaurants – that have had to close for the past seven days. “So, I’m really happy for them and I just hope that everybody stays very careful,” she adds. 

While frustrating, Terziano says she understood why we were put into the Grey zone, but the constant changes are unneeded. “It’s just that going in and out of the lockdown; lockdown, open up, lockdown, open up, that’s just frustrating too and it’s very hard on businesses that are trying to get back open and then bang, back closed again,” she says. “I have so much sympathy for them and for everything they’ve been through the last year, and maybe this will be the last of the shutdown.”

“Muskoka continues to have radically different numbers than the rest of our health unit area and I still think there’s work to be done to get the powers that be into that mindset that we should be looked at independently,” Smith says. He’s been at the forefront of the campaign to have the District of Muskoka’s COVID-19 data reported separately from Simcoe County’s. 

“You could see the inevitability of a problem like this occurring,” he says about when the provincial government released the colour-coded framework in fall 2020. 

He once again pushed for the micro-targeting system to be looked at. Smith says he will continue to advocate for Muskoka to be treated fairly when it comes to the reporting of coronavirus data. “Hopefully these conversations will make a difference,” he says.

“I wish to thank those who have reached out to me and provided me with their insights,” Dr. Gardner said in his letter. “The concerns raised included impacts of the lockdown on businesses, income, health and mental health, and access to services. I regret the difficulty that is caused by our response to the pandemic, even as we strive to reduce the illness and the deaths that occur from this tragic pandemic. The pandemic has been extremely difficult on us all.”

With files from Alain Quevillion