Simcoe Muskoka’s top doc not in favour of pulling the plug on the stay-at-home order

Dr. Charles Gardner supports extension into June

Dr. Charles Gardner is encouraged by the uptake in immunization in the region, especially among older people.

“Those who need it the most are accepting it and we are seeing the results of that,” said the Medical Officer of Health for Simcoe-Muskoka.

36 per cent of Simcoe Muskoka residents have received their first dose, and in the 60 to 64 age bracket, 70 per cent of individuals have received their first jab.

There has been a week-to-week reduction in COVID cases in Simcoe Muskoka since mid-April and active cases as of Tuesday were 927 compared to just over 1,000 two weeks ago.

There are also fewer people in area hospitals with COVID-19, with 31 infected patients as of Tuesday, down from 52 two weeks ago, while 11 of those individuals are in ICUs, compared to 13 over the same time frame.

Gardner said the data locally shows workplace outbreaks have also been greatly reduced.

Despite the optimism, the stay-at-home order set to be lifted May 20 by the province should be extended into the beginning of June, according to Gardner, which echoes comments made by Ontario’s Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. David Williams on Monday.

Williams said he would like to see daily case counts in the province drop below 1,000 before public health restrictions are eased, and added officials would like to see fewer than 150 patients in intensive care units. The current number is still above 800.

Gardner reminded the media at Tuesday’s briefing that he was opposed when the province lifted a stay-at-home order in February when daily infections were above 1,000.

The province reported 2,073 new COVID infections on Tuesday, the lowest tally since March.

“The real risk of opening too soon is you can end up in a fourth wave extending through the summer and we certainly don’t want that,” Gardner emphasized.

“The first steps to opening up need to be very, very cautious.”

Gardner said there are still vulnerabilities.

“We continue to have ongoing in the range of 10 household clusters a week. Up to half of the people in those households become infected,” he said.

Gardner also noted the COVID hot spot in Bradford West Gwillimbury.

“What people do in their daily lives socially really matters,” he explained. “People really need to take to heart the stay-at-home order and not have people over into their homes and not go into other people’s homes, and abide by that restriction.”

He also urged people to take the opportunity when they can to get immunized.

“We’ve had a very high uptake. But we need that to continue all the way through to the very end. We need to get a very high vaccination rate of the population as a whole if we are going to get herd immunity and actually have lasting control of the pandemic here.”

Asked about the Saturday anti-lockdown rallies that have taken place in Barrie for a number of weeks, Gardner repeated what he has said in the past about a prohibition on public gatherings currently in effect.

He admitted it was hard for the health unit to detect COVID-19 cases related to such protests. One reason, he said, is these individuals may not report exposure and it doesn’t get picked up in the health unit’s surveillance.