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HomeNewsHealth unit concerned by recent high rate of COVID-19 transmission

Health unit concerned by recent high rate of COVID-19 transmission

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In his first briefing since March 23, which was two days after Ontario’s mask mandate was lifted, the Simcoe Muskoka District Health Unit’s (SMDHU) medical officer of health reaffirms: the COVID-19 pandemic isn’t over.

“I think I’ve been fairly open and consistent all the way through that I’ve felt things were happening quicker, earlier than I would have advised,” Doctor Charles Gardner said Tuesday. 

This as the infection rate within SMDHU’s medical region has increased higher than health officials anticipated when restrictions began being lifted. Health officials are blaming the COVID-19 micron BA.2 variant.

There were 1,282 cases reported for the week of April 3, according to the health unit. That’s 79-percent higher than the 715 cases reported three weeks earlier during the week of March 20. Also, in SMDHU’s medical region, the incidence rate is higher than Ontario’s for the week of April 3. They reported 208 new cases per 100,000 population, compared to 148 per 100,000 by the province.

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There were nine new deaths in the past two weeks. One of them was from Muskoka.

Those numbers include both Simcoe County and the District of Muskoka as the health unit no longer separates the two regions in its data. 

Gardner said we won’t know what effect this will have on hospitalizations for another couple of weeks. He explained that’s because hospital data “tends to lag” behind cases. Gardner added he believes there will be a rise in hospitalizations, but isn’t sure by how much.

“There’s a tremendous amount of fatigue in the public and I think with each wave it becomes more difficult to do that, whether it’s done locally or by the province,” Gardner added when asked about the potential of reinstating a mask mandate or other restrictions.

However, he said he believes reinstating a mask mandate, either locally or provincially, would be helpful. “All of that would help reduce a rise, but I anticipate we would still see some rise even with those measures in place,” he said. “If we don’t have those measures in place, I think the rise will be substantially higher.”

Gardner believes if that does happen, there will likely be pushback. “I don’t know what the reaction of the public would be,” he explained. “We might get a strong negative reaction.”

Masking aside, Gardner said a “multi-layered approach” is needed to reverse the current trend. That, he said, includes following the protocols that have been suggested since the beginning of the pandemic like hand washing and physical distancing as well as getting vaccinated as soon as you’re able to.

“I do not know how much longer this will go on,” Gardner said.

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