COVID-19 this week: first days within the red zone and active transmission continues

Health unit continues to see challenges with contact tracing

Short on time? Here’s what you need to know:
-The local health unit continues to face contact tracing challenges due to an increased volume of cases.
-24 active outbreaks in the region, including seven schools
-Simcoe Muskoka’s medical officer of health says there is active transmission of the virus

Simcoe and Muskoka marked its first days within the province’s control-red tier of COVID-19 response this week, brought about by an increase in several pandemic-related metrics health experts use to track viral spread in the community.

“At this point in time, I’d say that there’s active transmission throughout Simcoe County,” said medical officer of health Dr. Charles Gardner during his Tuesday media briefing. “I would also say that we’ve had some increase in the incidence of cases in Muskoka as well.”

PANDEMIC TRAJECTORY

Last week, the region saw its highest weekly increase of COVID-19 cases, with 333 confirmed cases reported by Friday. So far this week, there have been 165 new cases reported by the SMDHU, with the addition of Tuesday’s 44 cases.

“These are high numbers,” said Gardner. “This continues an elevating rate of transmission.”

The region’s seven-day rolling average number of cases dropped several points to 42.5. The Health Unit’s goal is to see a decrease over 14 days or a stable trend of fewer than two cases per day.

SPREAD AND TRACING

The health unit reported two more COVID-related deaths this week, bringing the number of lives lost to the virus since the beginning of the pandemic to 56 people.

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“Our public health system remains challenged. We are challenged in our response rate, to be able to reach contacts and their cases and contacts within a 24 hour period,” said Dr. Gardner.

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Close contact continues to be the main method by which COVID-19 is spread within Simcoe and Muskoka. The majority of the region’s caseload is among those aged 18 to 34, while those in the 45-64 age range follow that. People aged 35 to 44 make up the third-largest group of people contracting COVID-19, while those under 17 and those over the age of 80 comprise the rest. The majority of lives lost to COVID in Simcoe-Muskoka are among those aged 80 and over.

OUTBREAKS

The SMDHU reported 24 outbreaks in the region as of Tuesday afternoon.

There are seven outbreaks within long-term care and retirement homes within the region. In Barrie, the health unit continues outbreak declarations at Waterford Retirement Community, Mill Creek Care Centre, and Coleman Care Centre. Kingsmere Retirement Living in Alliston, Bradford Valley Care Community in Bradford, Raglan Square in Collingwood, and Trillium Manor in Orillia all remain in outbreak status.

The Health Unit confirms an outbreak has been declared at Central North Correctional Centre in Penetanguishene, while an outbreak continues at Midland’s Georgian Bay General Hospital.

There are seven active outbreaks in educational settings in the region; Barrie North Collegiate, St. Joseph’s Catholic High, Bear Creek Secondary, and Portage View Public, all in Barrie, are among those. Outbreaks continue at Our Lake of Grace Catholic School in Angus, Nantyr Shores Secondary in Innisfil, and Bradford District High School in Bradford.

While the SMDHU is reporting outbreaks at congregate care settings and workplaces, information on individual cases is not provided as a matter of personal privacy.

SIMCOE-MUSKOKA’S RECOVERY

The Simcoe Muskoka District Health Unit and all the municipalities it covers are in the control-red tier of the province’s COVID-19 response framework, meaning for capacity size caps at restaurants, meeting places, recreational facilities, and other public gathering spaces. Masks must be worn in workplaces and indoor public spaces.

While Simcoe and Muskoka recently rose in status to the control-red status, Dr. Gardner says there would have to be a significant rise in cases before going into the lockdown-grey tier. “There are specifications about that; they will give you a number that you pass but there are broader considerations,” added Gardner. “But what we’ve seen is that their health unit areas that have gone into red generally have had more than 100 cases per 100,000 population per week.”