Premier suggests a review of Simcoe Muskoka health unit’s boundary in the wake of COVID-19

Vast amount of COVID cases in Simcoe Muskoka have been in Barrie and southern Simcoe County

The geography covered by the Simcoe Muskoka District Health Unit is vast and some of the disparity between the more urban and rural areas surrounding the number of COVID-19 cases has been on full display during the pandemic.

During a visit to Bracebridge on Monday, Premier Doug Ford acknowledged this and said there will be a review of the health unit’s boundary.

Throughout the pandemic, in particular when Simcoe Muskoka was in a locally ordered lockdown, many businesses in the District of Muskoka cried foul saying it was unfair their doors were closed when the vast majority of infections were in Barrie and the southern part of Simcoe County, such as Innisfil and Bradford.

“It’s not really fair to the people of Parry Sound, Bracebridge and Huntsville region,” Ford told reporters. “We’re seeing the Delta variant is closer to the Barrie region and it’s such a massive jurisdiction.”

The premier said there will be no movement on the issue until the province gets through the pandemic.

“Then we’re going to have a good chat and may have to redraw the boundaries.”

As of Monday, the Simcoe Muskoka District Health Unit reported there have been 12,264 confirmed cases of COVID-19 since the pandemic began, with 11,798 in Simcoe County, including the cities of Barrie and Orillia, and 463 in Muskoka. Of the 266 deaths from the virus, 12 have been in Muskoka.

Before the pandemic began, the Ford government had a plan to cut the number of public health units in the province from 35 to 10. The plan was put on pause because of COVID-19.

Under the plan, the Simcoe County portion was to be merged with operations in York Region, while Muskoka was to be lumped with North Bay, Parry Sound, Sudbury, Algoma, Temiskaming, Porcupine and the northern section of Renfrew County.