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COVID-19

COVID-19

Think you might have COVID-19 (coronavirus), or been exposed to it, or may be at risk of being exposed to it through your work, at school or other communal settings? Visit an assessment centre to get a COVID-19 test. If you are unsure if you should get a test, take the online self-assessment to help decide. If you have been tested you can check your lab results here

If this is a medical emergency, call 911. Advise them of your symptoms and if you have recently travelled.

NEW: EFFECTIVE SEPTEMBER 19, 2020

The Government of Ontario announced the new limit on the number of people allowed to attend unmonitored private social gatherings across the province:

  • 10 people at an indoor event or gathering (previous limit of 50);
  • 25 people at an outdoor event or gathering (previous limit of 100)

Indoor and outdoor events and gatherings cannot be merged together. Gatherings of 35 (25 outdoors and 10 indoors) are not permitted. 

Unmonitored and private social gatherings include functions, parties, dinners, gatherings, BBQs or wedding receptions held in private residences, backyards, parks and other recreational areas.

We all have a role to play in reducing the spread of COVID-19

As local cases of COVID-19 sharply rise to numbers not seen since the spring, in addition to the provincial restrictions above, we are asking everyone in Simcoe Muskoka to shrink your social circles to those within your own household and to be cautious by reducing your exposure within the community.

To keep everyone safe, including those returning to school and those living in long-term care homes: 

  • shrink your close contacts (the people you can hug and touch without physical distancing) to only those people within your own household 
  • think carefully about how often you go out and what is essential 
  • parents should screen children for symptoms of COVID-19 every day before they leave for school; if a child has even one symptom, they should stay home and self-isolate 
  • those in the workforce should also monitor for symptoms and stay home if they have even a single symptom.

There are more actions we should all take, described below, to protect ourselves and others.

  • Always
  • wash your hands often with soap and water or alcohol-based hand sanitizer 
  • sneeze and cough into your sleeve 
  • avoid touching your eyes, nose or mouth 
  • avoid contact with people who are sick 
  • stay home if you are sick 
  • Practise physical distancing to reduce exposure to other people — this means staying at least 2 metres (6 feet) away from anyone outside your household or social circle (see the next section for more information on this).
  • Wear a face covering in all indoor public spaces such as businesses, organizations, or riding on public transit. Also wear a face covering when physical distancing is not possible. Make sure it fits. Learn how to wear it properly  and follow the do’s and don’ts
  • Self-isolate if you think you have symptoms of COVID-19, have a chronic medical condition, or are over 65.

When you enter into a public indoor space a (e.g. grocery store, community centre, shopping mall, hair salon, library, place of worship, etc.), or use a public transit service in Simcoe Muskoka, you are required to wear a face covering.

A face covering means a medical or non-medical mask or other face covering such as a bandana or scarf that covers the nose, mouth and chin.

Children under the age of 2 or those under 5 who cannot be persuaded, are not required to wear a face covering, as well as individuals whose health or ability, or cultural or religious reasons would prevent them from doing so. No proof of exemption is required.

These additional public health measures remain in effect in all indoor and outdoor settings:

  • Maintain physical distancing of at least two metres from others
  • Stay home if ill and get tested for COVID-19
  • Wash your hands often with soap and water or use alcohol-based hand sanitizer.
  •  

    FAQ: What you need to know about wearing a face covering in indoor public spaces (Revised September 11, 2020)

    Public Signage for Printing & Displaying: STOP You must wear a face covering at this site

    Make sure your mask fits. Learn how to wear it properly and follow the do’s and don’ts.

  • Video: how to wear your non-medical mask properly.
  • Sew and no-sew instructions for how to make a cloth mask
  •  

    Evidence-based Information on Face Coverings

    EFFECTIVE SEPTEMBER 19, 2020

    The Government of Ontario announced the new limit on the number of people allowed to attend an unmonitored private social gatherings across the province:

    • 10 people at an indoor event or gathering (previous limit of 50);
    • 25 people at an outdoor event or gathering (previous limit of 100)

    Indoor and outdoor events and gatherings cannot be merged together. Gatherings of 35 (25 outdoors and 10 indoors) are not permitted.

    Unmonitored and private social gatherings include functions, parties, dinners, gatherings, BBQs or wedding receptions held in private residences, backyards, parks and other recreational areas.

    The new limits do not apply to events or gatherings in staffed businesses and facilities because they must already follow specific public health and safety guidelines to minimize risk and limit the spread of COVID-19. These include places such as bars, restaurants, cinemas, convention centres, banquet halls, gyms, places of worship, recreational sporting or performing art events. Existing rules, including public health and workplace safety measures for these businesses and facilities, continue to be in effect. People at their place of work, including performers and crews, do not count towards gathering limits.

    People gathering indoors for religious services, rites or ceremonies, and wedding ceremonies or funeral services, can continue to fill up to 30 per cent of the capacity of the particular room, as introduced in Stage 2.

    How to safely socialize:

    • Do not gather if you have COVID-19 symptoms, are unwell, or have been in close contact with someone who has COVID-19.
    • Always maintain a physical distance of at least 2 metres while gathering with people who are not part of your household or social circle (see below for more information on social circles).
    • Outdoor gatherings continue to provide the safest means of socializing.
    • If you participate in activities like having an outdoor BBQ, reduce the risk of spreading COVID-19 by:
    • Sticking to the gathering size limits.
    • Setting out physical distancing guidelines before guests arrive (i.e. plan the seating arrangements ahead of time to ensure there is an appropriate amount of space between guests).
    • Asking guests to bring their own supplies including cutlery, glassware, food and drinks.
    • Not sharing food or drinks with others.
    • Providing disinfecting wipes and hand sanitizer for guests to use when entering the home or outdoor area.
    • Putting out individual towelettes so that everyone uses their own personal piece of paper towel to dry their hands after they've washed them.

    Your social circle are the people you can hug and touch, or those who can become part of your daily and weekly routines without physical distancing. All members of your social circle should continue to practice physical distancing with others (outside of your social circle), wash hands frequently, wear a face covering when physical distancing outside of your social circle is not possible, and self-isolate if they become ill.

    For more information on why social circles are important and how to create a safe social circle, visit the Ministry of Health’s Create a social circle during COVID-19 webpage.

    If you are a cottager or visitor to Simcoe Muskoka, please ensure that you continue to practice the following public health measures, both here and at home.

    • If you are coming from a region of high COVID transmission (e.g. GTA) purchase food, supplies and medications in your own community before arriving at your cottage and limit visits to the local community for essential shopping only. A face covering must be used when shopping indoors.
    • Practise physical distancing to reduce exposure to other people — this means staying at least 2 metres (6 feet) away from anyone outside your household. 
    • Avoid gatherings and public events. See Gathering section above for more detailed information on gathering restrictions.  
    • Wear a face covering when physical distancing is not possible and when visiting all indoor public spaces and using public transit services.
    • Stay at your cottage as much as possible.
    • Practice proper and frequent handwashing and cough hygiene, and self-isolate if you develop symptoms.
    If you are caring for a person who has been diagnosed with COVID-19, follow this advice to protect yourself and others in the home, as well as those in your community.

    It is important to get outside and enjoy public spaces, however there is a risk of people congregating close together and spreading COVID-19. The following are recommendations to reduce the risk of spreading COVID-19 when visiting outdoor public spaces (i.e. municipal or public parks, community gardens, hiking paths and trails, dog parks, playgrounds, skate parks, outdoor pools, splash pads, beaches, piers and campgrounds):

    • Use the outdoor public spaces within your own community, when possible. 
    • If you are feeling ill or displaying symptoms (i.e. fever, cough, difficulty breathing, muscle aches, fatigue, headache, sore throat, runny nose) or if you have come into contact with someone who has shown symptoms or has tested positive, you are not to visit the outdoor public space. 
    • Read all posted signs including screening signs at all entrances and ensure everyone self-screens before entering the outdoor public space. 
    • Maintain a physical distance of at least 2 metres (6 feet) from others at all times and especially while in places where people tend to congregate, such as parking lots, trailheads and scenic overlooks.
    • Avoid close contact with people outside your household, such as shaking hands, hugging, high-fives, or games involving shared items.
    • Wash or sanitize your hands as you arrive. 
    • Do not share equipment such as balls, bicycles and helmets, etc. outside of one’s household members. 
    • If physical distancing is difficult to maintain in the outdoor space, consider wearing a face covering.

    It is important to know that there is currently no evidence of food or food packaging being linked to the spread of COVID-19. You’re more likely to be infected by your fellow shoppers than anything you purchase. There are things you can do to reduce your risks when shopping.

    Decide on who goes shopping:

    Choose a person in your household who is in good health to be the main grocery shopper. Shop only if you feel well and can be reasonably sure that you have not been in contact with someone who has COVID-19 or is showing symptoms. Shop alone, only one person per household and no children if possible.

    Do not go out and shop if you are:

    • Sick or living with someone who is sick 
    • Just home from travelling 
    • Over 70 years of age
    • Have a weakened immune system or chronic health condition

    Plan your shopping list carefully so that you can buy enough food and other supplies to last at least a week or two. Buy more and aim for only one trip a week.

    When you are shopping: 

    • You must wear a face covering when shopping indoors, and if shopping outdoors (i.e. farmers' market) and physical distancing is not possible.
    • Shop at a less busy time. Be cautious about store hours set aside for “‘seniors-only” shopping. They can be busier than if you went at an off-peak hour on a different day. 
    • Be respectful of store employees. They are doing their best in a difficult situation. 
    • Clean the handle of your cart. 
    • Bring your own wipes and hand sanitizer; although the stores have been trying hard to keep a public stock, the supplies are short. 
    • Wash or sanitize your hands as you enter and after to get into your car. 
    • Keep your distance from others while in the store. Staying 2 metres or roughly 2 arms-length (6 feet) apart is an easy way to measure your distance. 
    • Handle only the items you intend to buy. 
    • Use a credit or debit card to avoid handling money or receiving change. 
    • Avoid touching your face. 
    • Know that gloves are not necessary and offer no added protection. Frequent handwashing is key.

    Back at home:

    • Follow the drop-off or pick-up instructions given by the restaurant or grocery store.
    • Ask for the food to be left on the doorstep.
    • Minimize contact with employees. Stay 2 metres (6 feet) apart from the delivery person.
    • If picking up food or groceries, consider opening the car door or trunk latch yourself so the person loading does not touch your car handles.
    • Use touch-free or cashless payments.
    • Prepay via the internet or telephone for your delivery order.
    • Remove your food from the external packaging and dispose of it in the garbage or recycling right away.
    • Avoid touching your face.
    • Wash your hands well for 15 seconds after touching packaging and before eating.

    Shopping for second-hand products is a good way to save money, recycle and reuse during COVID-19. Shopping may occur either online or in person (such as garage/yard sales). If you participate in handling or purchasing second-hand products here are some actions you can take to reduce the risk of exposure to COVID-19.

    Garage/Yard Sales

    Garage/yard sales are allowed, however there is a limit on the number of people allowed at outdoor public gatherings and events, which applies to garage/yard sales. Effective September 19, 2020 outdoor gatherings are limited to 25 people and subject to physical distancing of at least two metres with people from outside their households or social circles. 

    Some Ontario municipalities have approved bylaws that may restrict garage or yard sales due to COVID-19. If you want to host a garage/yard sale, contact your local municipal office for more information.

    If you are organizing a yard sale at your home, limit gathering of the retail space (driveway, yard) to allowable numbers that support physical distancing. Post signs to indicate the limit, have hand sanitizer available, and do not attend/host yard/garage sales if you have COVID-19, are unwell, or have been in close contact with someone who has COVID-19.

    Managing or buying second-hand items during COVD-19: 

    The main way that COVID-19 is transmitted is directly from person-to-person, rather than through objects. Therefore, the following recommendations are to help prevent person-to-person spread.

    • Avoid all close contact with people outside of your household and practice physical distancing (e.g. stay 2 metres (6 feet) away from others at all times). 
    • Wear a face covering when physical distancing is not possible. Make sure it fits. Learn how to wear it properly and follow the do’s and don’ts.
    • Avoid meeting in person if possible (e.g. leave items out for porch pick-up ) 
    • Use digital/electronic or contactless payment services rather than cash. 
    • Refrain from trying on any clothing while shopping, and limit touching items where possible.

    Cleaning and Disinfecting Goods and Surfaces

    It is also possible that COVID-19 can be transmitted through objects, as the COVID -19 virus may persist on surfaces for a few hours or up to several days depending on different conditions, such as: temperature, type of surface and humidity of the environment.

    • After purchasing an item, thoroughly clean and disinfect it. Avoid buying items that are difficult to clean. 
    • When possible, clean and disinfect all surfaces of the merchandise; Launder items where possible and dry on the hottest setting possible. 
    • If items cannot be cleaned and disinfected (e.g. books, paper, fabric) they should be stored for a period of time in a dedicated area or room for at least 72 hours before use. 
    • Wash your hands after handling items.

    If attending a funeral consider the following:

    • self-screen for COVID-19 symptoms 
    • stay home if you are sick 
    • if you are high risk consider attending virtually or the outdoor portion only 
    • a mask or face covering is required when indoors and is recommended outdoors when it is difficult to maintain physical distance 
    • wash your hands often with soap and water or alcohol-based hand sanitizer 
    • avoid touching your eyes, nose or mouth 
    • avoid close contact (hugging, kissing, hand shaking) with persons outside of your social circle

    For more information see guidance for indoor and outdoor events and gatherings.

    How is COVID-19 affecting you and your family?

    Since March, our lives have been affected in many different ways by the COVID-19 pandemic. The health unit recently conducted a situational assessment 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 surveys / questionnaires.
    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
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