Average age of new COVID-19 infections in Simcoe Muskoka is 32, substantial change says health unit from when pandemic began

Local medical officer of health said there is a new pattern related to transmission

Young at heart but still at risk of acquiring COVID-19 and certainly able to transmit the disease to others.

How the virus in our region is being transmitted has changed substantially, according to Dr. Charles Gardner, Medical Officer of Health for Simcoe Muskoka.

“Younger people are being more affected more recently and cases are rising. The average age of our cases now in the past week is 32 years old. At the beginning of our pandemic it was more in the range of 40s and 50s. That’s a substantial change over time and consistent with what is being seen in other health units in the province.”

The Simcoe Muskoka District Health Unit reported two new cases of COVID-19 on Tuesday, both individuals are in their 20s and live in Barrie. How they got the virus is under investigation.

The province reported 203 new COVID-19 cases on Tuesday and Health Minister Christine Elliot tweeted that “some 57 per cent of today’s newly confirmed infections of the novel coronavirus are in people 39 years old or younger.”

Gardner said there is a new pattern related to transmission through social contact or the work environment, where as before, he said that kind of thing was happening, but it was very much in seniors’ homes and long-term care facilities.

He expressed concern now that most of Ontario is in Stage 3 of the province’s plans to open up the economy, there is evidence of people being complacent.

Gardner suggested people might be engaging in house parties which he noted is a potential for transmission if there is no physical distancing or the numbers of people attending are too high.

Where bars and restaurants have re-opened, he said there have been outbreaks in Montreal and Calgary linked back to certain establishments.

Asked if people should continue to dine at outdoor patios rather than going indoors, Gardner said it would be a wise decision.

“There is an added elevation of precaution to staying outdoors. There is fresh air and good air exchange contributes to a reduced risk, while sunlight acts as a disinfectant. If people want to take an added precaution, that is what they can do.”

Gardner urged young people to abide by control measures including socializing with the same 10 people in your chosen circle and to maintain a two metre distance with others.

“Young people are as vulnerable as anybody else to getting this infection and even if they feel they are not, they would be at high risk of transmitting it to a loved one who is vulnerable.”

Over a week into the mandated wearing of masks in public indoor spaces, Gardner did not have any data related to compliance. He said it was his impression that people are complying and wearing face coverings.

Calls to the health unit’s intake lines suggested people were split between those opposed to wearing masks or calling up about those who were not wearing face coverings. There have also been calls to the health unit with complaints about employees not wearing masks or people complaining that patrons are not wearing masks.

There are guidelines in place for those who are not required to wear a mask including for medical reasons and children under the age of two.

Gardner urged people to treat others with compassion and tolerance when it comes to the wearing of face coverings and assume the person not wearing a mask may have a valid reason.