Retail businesses and workplaces in Simcoe Muskoka had better have their COVID ducks in order.
The Ministry of Labour in partnership with the Simcoe Muskoka District Health Unit and local bylaw enforcement officers will conduct an inspection blitz on Friday, Apr. 30 and Saturday, May 1.
“This is to ensure workplaces and businesses are following public health guidelines and requirements, and properly protecting workers,” said Dr. Charles Gardner, Simcoe Muskoka Medical Officer of Health.
“Some of the measures include having written and posted safety plans where they can be seen, screening staff and customers for COVID-19 and the proper use of masks.”
The focus of the Simcoe Muskoka Education and Enforcement initiative will include
- Big Box stores
- Drug stores
- Beer/liquor stores
- Dollar stores
- Pet food stores (verifying that they are closed for retail)
- Businesses of < 25 employees
- Supplement stores
- Garden Centres
- Gas Stations/mechanic garages
Gardner told a media briefing on Tuesday that COVID-19 transmission rates provincially and locally are beginning to slow down.
“So, progress is being made,” Gardner noted. “But the rates are very high, and I would caution that it’s going to be really weeks before we’ve got this under proper control.”
Asked if he was hopeful the region could get to the low rates of transmission seen last summer, Garnder was cautious.
“Last summer, we had a profound reduction in case counts. The province was below 100 cases per day, as opposed to the three or four thousand cases at this time,” said Gardner.
During that period, he said Simcoe Muskoka was down to three cases per week.
“I would very much welcome being able to get to that. But we have a long way to go to get to that level of control. This time we have vaccination on our side, but we are also dealing with variants. We have a much higher rate of transmission now than we did at this time last year.”
Gardner confirmed he received preliminary communication at the weekend from Public Health Ontario indicating in Simcoe Muskoka a case of a variant of concern first identified in India. He has asked for more specifics but has not received an update.
As of Tuesday, Gardner said there are 52 Simcoe Muskoka residents hospitalized with COVID-19. Of those, 15 are in intensive care units, which is the highest since the start of the pandemic and does not take into account COVID patients who have been brought to the region because of capacity issues at hospitals outside the jurisdiction.
Over 191,500 doses of COVID-19 vaccine have been administered in Simcoe Muskoka, including doses administered by local pharmacies. Over 175,800 individuals living in Simcoe Muskoka have received their first dose of vaccine, which represents over 28% of the total population.