Dr. Charles Gardner, Medical Officer of Health for the Simcoe Muskoka District Health Unit (SMDHU), says it’s “imperative” the community does what it can to protect themselves from the spread of transmissible diseases.
That, as the health unit sees more hospitalizations for the “triple threat” of respiratory syncytial virus (RSV), influenza, and COVID-19.
“Young children, the elderly and those with medical conditions are at increased risk of serious illness from these respiratory viruses, and we are already seeing the impact on the health care system with more medical visits and hospitalizations particularly for young children throughout the province including in Simcoe and Muskoka,” says Gardner in a Nov. 16 statement. “These trends are expected to continue as more time is spent indoors. By wearing a mask indoors and layering protective measures, we can help prevent viral spread and lower the risk of illness impacting our schools, workplaces, and local health care system.”
Gardner went on to say that he’s handcuffed by a provincial decision to reverse parts of the Reopening Ontario Act which he says, in part, prevents local public health officials from issuing letters of instruction, like ones that could mandate masking in their medical regions. “I am in ongoing communication with the province for the potential of stronger public messaging or mandates that can reduce the transmission of these diseases during respiratory illness season,” he continues.
However, Gardner points out that SMDHU officials implemented the Community COVID Risk Level to “help the public determine the best ways, using a layered approach, they can protect themselves and others from COVID-19 infection.”
The latest update to the risk level was made on Oct. 29. The risk level was put to the 3rd highest level, which is “high.”
“Risk of infection and severe illness increases as community, personal, and situational risk increases,” health unit officials say about the rating. “Consider your personal and situational risks along with the community risk level to decide how to protect yourself and others around you. Use more layers of protection to protect yourself and others around you.”