Coronavirus SociaL Media - PROVINCEWIDE SHUTDOWN
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COVID-19

COVID-19

Simcoe Muskoka is in RED – CONTROL level classification

Effective Tuesday February 16, 2021 at 12:01 a.m., the Simcoe Muskoka District Health Unit (SMDHU) region is in the Red – Control level classification in the Province of Ontario’s COVID-19 response framework: keeping Ontario safe and open framework.

The Keeping Ontario Safe and Open Framework guides public health restrictions based on COVID-19 transmission in the province.

SMDHU and local municipalities may also implement local public health directions, bylaws, and policies that can exceed the provincial laws and recommendations.

Important message:

The fewer people you have contact with the lower the risk of exposure to COVID-19. Even though there is no longer a stay-at-home order, staying home is still the best way to protect yourself and others. You are strongly advised to:

  • stay home as much as possible 
  • avoid social gatherings 
  • limit close contacts to your household 
  • screen for symptoms if attending school and/ or childcare and work
  • work from home if possible, and allow your employees to work from home if they can 
  • avoid travel except for essential reasons 

Households have the highest risk of spread when someone in the house has COVID-19. Household members of someone with symptoms of COVID-19 and is a close contact of a COVID-19 case should stay at home, until the symptomatic individual receives a negative test result. 

For more information on how to stay safe and stop the spread of COVID 19 click here.

Variants of the COVID-19 virus are here in Ontario and Simcoe Muskoka and urgent efforts by all are needed to slow their spread to protect our health system and our most vulnerable. Variants of COVID-19 are more contagious which means it will take more intensive efforts of the same public health practices to prevent transmitting infection to each other. For the most up to date numbers of the amount of confirmed variants in our region check here.

What we know about COVID-19 variants

It is common for viruses to change as they spread through the population. Three variants have been detected around the world:

  • The United Kingdom (UK) variant, called B.1.1.7 is the most common variant worldwide at this time, and has been detected in Canada and is the one we have now seen locally. 
  • A South African variant called 1.351 that has recently been detected in Ontario. 
  • A Brazilian variant called P.1, that has not been detected in Canada.

Experts are studying how the virus is changing by understanding the genetic make-up of the virus. This will help us understand how changes to the virus might affect how it spreads and what happens to people who are infected with it.

What we know about United Kingdom (UK) variant (B.1.1.7)

  • This variant was first detected in the UK in September 2020 and is now widespread in London and southeast England. It has since been detected in numerous countries around the world, and more recently in several areas of Ontario.
  • The UK variant appears to spread more easily and quickly than other variants. 
  • At this time both Pfizer and Moderna have said their COVID-19 vaccines is thought to be effective against the B.1.1.7 variant. This is likely because the part of the virus that has changed doesn’t impact upon how the vaccines works.

For more information see Public Health Ontario Synthesis - COVID-19 UK Variant VOC-202012/01 – What We Know So Far

What we do not know

  • How widely this new variant has spread in our community. The health unit is continuing to investigate.
  • How the illness caused by the new variants differs from the illness caused by other variants that are currently circulating. 
  • How these variants affect existing therapies and vaccines

Is there anything I can do differently to protect myself?

It is even more important that public health safety measures to stop the spread are followed because this variant appears to spread more easily and quickly.

Organized public events and social gatherings limits are:

  • 5 people indoors
  • 25 people outdoors.

 Virtual gatherings or events are the safest way to visit or recognize occasions with people outside your household.

It is strongly advised that you limit close contact to your household (the people you live with):

  • Everyone should avoid social gatherings.
  • Families not visit any other household or allow visitors in their homes.
  • Individuals who live alone and single parents may consider having exclusive, close contact with another household to help reduce the negative impacts of social isolation.
  • Maintain 2 metres (6 feet) of physical distancing from everyone outside of your household (who you do not live with).
  • Wear a mask indoors and outdoors if physical distancing cannot be maintained; or if wearing one is required. Masks should be tightly fitted to cover the nose, mouth and chin

Cottage or second residences

  • All trips to a cottage or secondary residence should be avoided, unless it is for an essential purpose like emergency maintenance.

Out of Region

  • Stay home. Travel outside your region should be limited to only essential purposes.

Out of province

Ontario’s Chief Medical Officer of Health strongly advises that individuals and families:

  • only travel out of the province if it is essential
  • self-isolate for 14 days when arriving in or returning to Ontario

Out of Country

Only travel outside of the country if it is essential. To slow the introduction and spread of COVID-19 in the country, the Government of Canada has put in place an emergency order under the Quarantine Act that applies to all travellers arriving in Canada. Under this order, if you have recently returned to Canada you must self-isolate (quarantine) and stay home whether you have symptoms or not. Even if you do not have symptoms right away, you are at risk of developing them and infecting others.

If you need it, you will get immediate medical attention when you arrive in Canada. Learn about travel advisories related to COVID-19 
 

If you have been identified as a close contact, and have been informed by public health or by someone in your life who has tested positive it is very important that you read this fact sheet (February 5, 2021) and take the following steps to stop the spread of COVID-19.

  • Stay home and self-isolate for 14 days after your last contact with the person who tested positive for COVID-19.
  • Only leave the house to get tested. For testing centre locations visit our assessment centres and testing page.
  • Monitor yourself for symptoms of COVID-19.
  • If you do get tested you must still self-isolate while you wait for your results. Even if your test result is negative you must continue to self-isolate for the full 14 days.

The following two forms can be used instead of a doctor’s note for return to usual activities.

A class order under Section 22 of the Health Protection and Promotion Act has been issued by Simcoe Muskoka’s Medical Officer of Health (MOH).

class order under Section 22 of the Health Protection and Promotion Act has been issued by Simcoe Muskoka’s Medical Officer of Health (MOH) to enforce COVID-19 self-isolation requirements. The order takes effect October 6, 2020 and remains in effect until the MOH declares it is no longer needed.

The order applies to any person living or present in the County of Simcoe and District of Muskoka who:

  • is identified as a person diagnosed with COVID-19;
  • has the signs and symptoms of COVID-19, has been tested for COVID-19 and is awaiting the results of their test;
  • otherwise has reasonable grounds to believe they have one or more symptoms of COVID-19; or
  • is a close contact of a person identified as a person diagnosed with COVID-19.

If you think you have any symptoms of COVID-19, use the provincial COVID self-assessment tool, and if indicated by the tool, get tested and self-isolate at home for 10 days (the period of time you are contagious) or until your test result is negative for COVID-19.

If you have been identified as a close contact of someone with COVID-19, which means being within 2 metres (6 feet) of that infected person for at least 15 minutes without adequate personal protective equipment (PPE), you must self-isolate for 14 days even though you don’t have symptoms. This is because the COVID-19 incubation period (the period between exposure to an infection and the appearance of the first symptoms) can be up to 14 days. Adequate PPE is using both medical grade surgical/procedural mask and protective eyewear. Cloth face coverings are not adequate PPE.

Individuals who fail to comply with the order may be liable for a fine of up to $5,000 for every day or part of each day on which the offence occurs or continues.

Inform us if you require any help or resources to properly self-isolate or while you are self-isolating such as food, medication, water, accommodation, clothing, appropriate medical treatment and family or other religious arrangements. To do so, call (705) 721-7520

For more information see Fact Sheet for Class Order for Self-Isolation.

Local example of COVID-19 Spread - Diagram

Diagram of a COVID-19 outbreak

Some important messages to remember:

  • People who are in close contact with others, for example, who live in the same household, work together in the same workplace, or gather with friends to visit without physical distancing and/or use of a face covering, are all at risk of getting COVID-19 from someone who has the virus. Social gatherings, workplaces and households are significant areas of transmission, which can then cause COVID-19 to be spread throughout our communities, resulting in isolation and exclusion from school and work for a substantial number of people.
  • Public health follows up with all COVID-19 cases, and when capacity permits, with high risk contacts. In large workplaces, schools or gatherings, this can potentially be large numbers of people.
  • It is common for viruses to change as they spread through the population. The United Kingdom (UK) variant, called B.1.1.7 is the most common variant worldwide at this time, and is also the one we have seen locally. Variants of COVID-19 are more contagious so we need to be vigilant in our measures against COVID-19. The measures are the same: stay at home except for essential purposes, stay at least 2 metres (6 feet) away from others outside of your household, wear a mask in all indoor public spaces and workplaces, as well as outdoors if physical distancing is not possible. Stay home if you are sick, screen daily for symptoms, and if you have symptoms of COVID-19, get tested.

The City of Barrie, the City of Orillia, the Town of Collingwood and the Town of Midland have joined the province-wide Wastewater Surveillance Initiative for COVID-19. Starting the week of February 1, they will be providing samples from their Wastewater Treatment Facilities that will be analyzed to measure the amount of COVID-19 present.

Tracking the number of people who test positive for COVID-19 is one way to look at the overall level of COVID-19 activity in a community; however, not everyone with COVID-19 has symptoms or is tested, and waiting for test results takes time.

Studies have shown that a significant proportion of people with active COVID-19 infections shed the virus in their stool, sometimes even before symptoms start. Municipal Wastewater Treatment Facilities collect and treat wastewater from across their communities, which allows for centralized measuring of the level of the COVID-19 genetic material (known as RNA) present in the wastewater. Testing wastewater captures both asymptomatic and symptomatic people, is comprehensive, anonymous, and positive detections are not attributable to an individual. This data is another tool that can help shed light on whether the infection rate in Barrie is increasing, decreasing, or staying the same.

The samples will be analyzed by Ontario Tech University. As part of this initiative, and with support from the province, samples from the City of Barrie Wastewater Treatment Facility and from the collection system near Roberta Place will also be provided to the University of Ottawa to help with their research into the new UK variant of the virus.

This initiative poses no risk to the public or municipal workers. Wastewater systems are closed off from the public and there is currently no epidemiological evidence that wastewater is a route of transmission of COVID-19. Wastewater workers will continue to follow routine practices to prevent exposure to wastewater. 


How is COVID-19 affecting you and your family?

Since March 2020, our lives have been affected in many different ways by the COVID-19 pandemic. The health unit conducted a situational assessment in July to understand the impacts that some public health measures have had on us. The first section below includes the reports and findings of this assessment. The second section includes a report on an evaluation of and lessons learned by the public health system from the first peak of COVID-19

Our health unit, along with several other public health agencies, completed a situational assessment from April to July 2020 to determine how community-based public health measures are negatively affecting the health and well-being of the general population and sub-populations, and to identify ways to help reduce these effects.

The situational assessment includes several parts, which together inform the overall report findings and considerations for further action. The final report and each of its component reports are linked below.

Final Report:
• Mitigating Harms of COVID-19 Public Health Measures: Situational Assessment Report (July 2020)

Environmental Scan: 
• Mitigating Negative Effects of COVID-19 Public Health Measures – Environmental Scan: Key Informant Interviews

Epidemiological Data:
• Epidemiological Data on Potential Impacts of the COVID-19 Community-Based Public Health Measures

Literature Reviews:

• Mitigating Unintended Harms of COVID-19 Public Health Measures (SMDHU) 

• Negative impacts of community-based public health measures during a pandemic (e.g. COVID-19) on children and families (Public Health Ontario)

• Substance Use-Related Harms and Risk Factors during Periods of Disruption (Public Health Ontario) 

• Mitigating Unintended Harms of COVID-19 Public Health Measures among Low Income Populations Rapid Review (Timiskaming Health Unit)

Additional literature review recently completed but not included in the final report: 
• Impacts of Community-Based Public Health Measures During Respiratory Outbreaks or Pandemics on Adolescents and Young Adults (Southwestern Public Health)

The Public Health System Evaluation and Lessons from the First Peak of COVID-19 , by the Council of Ontario Medical Officers of Health (COMOH), describes the role of the local public health system during the first COVID-19 peak and provides lessons learned and identified opportunities that collectively form foundations to build upon in preparation for the next phase as we wait for an effective vaccine.
At present, you can also do something important for your family, friends, neighbours and community by helping researchers understand how the pandemic is affecting people. This information will assist policy makers to understand our community’s health, social service and economic needs. Please consider participating in the following study.
The COHESION study, led by a team of researchers across Canada, evaluates the impact of the COVID-19 outbreak on individuals like you, across the country. With data you provide by completing online surveys and installing a smartphone app, you help understand how daily activities, social interactions, and the mental health of Canadians are being affected throughout, and following, the pandemic. To participate visit www.cohesionstudy.ca

Page last updated: February 16, 2021

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