‘I am concerned about the trajectory of things and where we are headed,’ says region’s top doc, as COVID-19 numbers climb locally

Dr. Charles Gardner says he is looking at reintroducing capacity limits at businesses if it proves to be necessary

Turning back the clock is not on the table just yet, but it’s something Simcoe Muskoka Medical Officer of Health Dr. Charles Gardner said he is looking at if it proves to be necessary, depending on the trajectory of cases in the region.

“I am concerned about the trajectory of things and where we are headed,” Gardner said at a Wednesday media briefing.

“I note other health units across the province that are in similar circumstances, and in particular, three health units in the north with the highest incidences of COVID-19 have put in place capacity limits for facilities and businesses that had been lifted in October.”

Those health units are in Timiskaming, Sudbury and Algoma.

Last month, the Ford government lifted indoor capacity limits for most settings where proof-of-vaccination is required, including bars, restaurants and gyms.

“This is not something I am intending to do immediately, and it’s something that I am looking at if it proves to be necessary. But it’s something that I want the community to be aware of.”

Gardner said he is going to be issuing an open letter to businesses and the community identifying the situation and the trajectory the region is headed on, and the need he said for everyone to abide by public health measures.

Gardner added he has had verbal communication with political leadership in Simcoe Muskoka, and he has started engaging the business community.

For the week of Nov. 21, both Huntsville and Wasaga Beach had the highest incidences of COVID-19 with 160 cases per 100,000 population, followed by Barrie with 130 cases per 100,000 population.

Gardner pointed out that the provincial rate is 37 cases per 100,000 population, and it is the sixth week in a row in which Simcoe Muskoka’s incidences have been higher than the provincial rate. Simcoe Muskoka is also outpacing all health units in the Greater Toronto Area.

Of the cases in Simcoe Muskoka during the week of Nov. 21, 25 per cent were in children under the age of 12.

Kids between 5 and 11 years of age are now eligible for their first dose of a COVID-19 vaccine.

To date in the region, 4,324 children in that age bracket have received their first dose, with 1,129 vaccinated on Tuesday. There have been more than 64-hundred pediatric appointments booked for this week.

Vaccination coverage in Simcoe Muskoka continues to be lowest among males 18 to 29 years of age.

Overall in the region, 88 per cent of the eligible population 12 and older has received one dose of vaccine, and 85 per cent have been double-dosed.