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“High level of detail” in COVID-19 reporting impossible to keep up, according to region’s top doctor

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The Simcoe Muskoka District Health Unit’s (SMDHU) top doctor says they kept “a very high level of detail” in its COVID-19 reporting for as long as possible.

Dr. Charles Gardner, SMDHU’s Medical Officer of Health, announced last week they would no longer be separating Simcoe County and the District of Muskoka’s COVID-19 data. 

“The volume of tests that have come back have been so high that we haven’t had the capacity to do all the data entry required to sort all of that out so for those reasons we don’t feel we have a sufficient handle to separate Simcoe versus Muskoka,” he said during his weekly briefing Wednesday.

Gardner pointed out that they’re only testing people who live or work in a congregate or high-risk setting like a hospital right now, so they don’t have a proper tally of what’s happening in the community. 

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“Through most of the pandemic we’ve been able to provide a very high level of detail,” Gardner said, adding that they were able to keep that going longer than staff originally assumed. He blames the fifth wave for why it’s stopped, noting that because the Omicron variant is so transmissible, the amount of data they had to log was impossible to keep up with. 

At the beginning of the pandemic, there was talk about separating Muskoka’s COVID data from Simcoe’s with even the premier weighing in on the topic. 

“There was a substantial difference in the incidence in Muskoka versus Simcoe, in particular South Simcoe, but with Omicron that difference has vanished,” Gardner said. Now, he explained, the transmission rates in the two regions are similar. “That was just a function of how very transmissible Omicron is,” he went on to say. “It didn’t seem to matter where you were in the province, it was going to find people.”

Gardner said there have been 17,477 cases during the fifth wave, adding there were 16,690 reported cases during the first four waves combined. 

“There’s quite a substantial amount of transmission happening in the community, which drives homes the point that people need to be cautious right now avoiding transmission and becoming even though we are improving quite significantly, as is the province,” Gardner said. 

With the provincial government announcing the loosening of some restrictions starting Thursday, Gardner isn’t expressing the same confidence that the province’s top doctor is. “It’s happening a little early,” Gardner said. “It’s earlier than the province originally indicated.”

“I think it’s important for people to know on an individual level for their family members and loved ones that there is still a substantial risk,” he said.

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