Local health unit putting in new measures to curb rise in COVID-19 cases

New measures apply to youth participation in indoor sports, places of worship, household contacts

The incidents of COVID-19 infections in Simcoe Muskoka is twice as high as what is being seen in the Greater Toronto Area, according to medical officer of health Dr. Charles Gardner.

At a meeting briefing on Wednesday, Gardner unveiled additional measures to try and curb the spread of infections.

He said an earlier directive to address workplace and public venue safety will now apply to places of worship.

This means requirements for active screening for symptoms and exclusion of individuals who have symptoms, obtaining contact information of those in attendance, maintaining physical distancing on the premises, and enforcing the use of masks for attendance at services.

As well, a requirement that coaches and instructors working with youth and children show proof-of-vaccination is going to be updated so that it also includes a requirement for youth 12 and above engaging in indoor sporting activities outside the school setting to provide proof of immunization.

Gardner said the health unit will choose a date to allow for individuals to obtain immunization.

There is also going to be a revised order under the Health Protection and Promotion Act.

“There is one already in place that requires cases and contacts to be isolated,” explained Gardner. “But now we’re extending that to include those under the age of 19 who are a household contact of an unvaccinated case, and who themselves are unimmunized and would be required to be in quarantine for a 10-day period.”

He said this intended to help reduce further the spread in schools.

“We have a large number of primary school outbreaks and this is meant to assist with reducing the numbers of these outbreaks and the size of these outbreaks.”

Premier Doug Ford said this week he was going to rely on medical officers of health to make the call about whether to impose local restrictions.

Health units covering the Sudbury and Algoma regions have already reinstated measures including business capacity limits because of growing caseloads.

Gardner said in Simcoe Muskoka the greatest number of outbreaks have been in elementary schools, which has been seen across the province.

“And that certainly includes those who can’t be immunized because of their age. They aren’t eligible to be immunized, and so many more outbreaks in elementary schools than in secondary schools or other settings.”

Gardner said 26 per cent of the COVID-19 cases in Simcoe Muskoka last month were among those under 12 years of age who can’t be immunized, as opposed to 15 per cent of the cases in July.

The Simcoe Muskoka District Health Unit reported 76 new COVID-19 cases and one additional death on Wednesday.