Tracking Torontonians: Cellphone data reveals Simcoe Muskoka was popular as lockdown lifted

Blue Mountain saw thousands of Toronto visitors

Cellphone data obtained by the Toronto Star shows Torontonians were on the move as the government gradually lifted the provincial lockdown.

The loosening of restrictions under the government’s COVID-19 framework has rattled experts who have warned about a possible third wave due to a rise in cases of the more infectious variants of concern (VOC).

At a media briefing Tuesday, Dr. Charles Gardner, the Medical Officer of Health for Simcoe Muskoka, said there has been a dip in COVID-19 cases and VOC, but the majority of tests coming back positive are now for variants, about 68 per cent.

The Star found more than 21,000 Toronto people paid a visit to Grey Bruce when stay-at-home orders ended and the region moved into green, and ski resorts reopened. In fact, Blue Mountain attracted more than 10,000 Toronto visitors, while more than 8,000 Torontonians dropped in on Simcoe Muskoka.

Hastings Prince Edward County was one of the first health units to move into green on Feb. 10, which allowed restaurants, hair salons and movie theatres to reopen, and well over 25,000 people from Toronto paid a visit to the eastern Ontario community that week, a 66 per cent jump from the week prior.

Gardner said Tuesday that a variant first identified in Brazil turned up in two cases in Simcoe County recently where one person exposed the other, and that other was infected outside the jurisdiction. The other VOC in Simcoe Muskoka have all been identified as B117, the version first detected in the U.K.