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COVID-19

The provincial stay-at-home order under the Emergency Management and Civil Protection Act is in effect until May 19, 2021. Provincewide shutdown measures under the Reopening Ontario (A Flexible Response to COVID-19) Act, 2020 are in effect until May 20, 2021. More on the stay-at-home order and the restrictions can be found on the provincial website as it is updated.

On the advice of the Chief Medical Officer of Health:

  • Limit trips outside the home to necessities such as food, medication, medical appointments, supporting vulnerable community members, or exercising outdoors with members of your household in your community. 
  • Individuals should remain in their local community and avoid all non-essential travel – even within the province.
  • Stay home when ill, even with mild symptoms. 
  • Employers in all industries should make every effort to allow employees to work from home.

Booking a COVID-19 vaccine appointment

Visit our getting your COVID-19 vaccination page for who can book an appointment and how; how to get on our standby list and who will be eligible next and when.

This page also includes information about the approved vaccines and how to prepare for your appointment.

Have you tested positive for COVID-19? Or you are a close contact of someone who has?

You may find out you are COVID-19 positive from your online results or testing centre staff before health unit staff are able to call you.

Here is what you need to do if you test positive for COVID-19. 

  • Isolate (including from others in household) for a minimum of 10 days from the start of symptoms or from the date of testing if asymptomatic at time of testing. See these fact sheets on When to self isolate from household members and How To Care For A Child Who Needs To Self-Isolate 
  • Make a list of any close contacts (anyone that you have been within 2 metres (6 feet) of the for a total of 15 minutes or more, even if wearing masks) that you were in contact with 48 hours prior to symptoms.
  • Notify your close contacts telling them they need to monitor for symptoms of COVID-19, seek testing at a COVID-19 testing centre and to also self-isolate for at least 14 days.

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 (May 3, 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.
  • DO NOT leave your isolation to go to a vaccination appointment. Please call our COVID-19 Vaccine Appointment Booking Support Line at 1-705-721-7520 (1-877-721-7520), ext 5997 and our staff will be happy to rebook your appointment for you once you have finished your isolation.
  • 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.

On April 9 2021, we launched a Virtual Assistant (VA) to assist in our case management efforts. The VA is a new internet and text messaging tool which will enable us to increase the speed and capacity for case management, and further support COVID-19 response in our community.

If you recently tested for COVID-19, you may receive a text message from the health unit asking them to complete a personal assessment form. When you click on the secure link in this text message, you will be able to provide information to public health about your health status, the people you have been in close contact with, and other important information to assist in public health follow up.

The form is voluntary and will take approximately 10 minutes to complete. You can opt out by texting the word “STOP”. After you submit information using this secure online form, public health investigators will be able to review the information provided.

In addition to receiving a text message from the VA, you may also receive a phone call from an investigator from us or a provincial public health partner. This phone call will allow our investigators to collect any further information needed to assist in case and contact management.

If you are feeling unwell, it is vital that you stay home and get tested for COVID-19. Visit our testing and assessment centre page for more.

Quick facts

  • The Virtual Assistant can be used on mobile devices and is iOS and Android compatible. The online form will function if the link is used in a browser on a desktop or laptop computer; however, it was created for a mobile experience.
  • All information collected is kept confidential and protected by Ontario’s strict privacy laws and will only be used for public health purposes. 
  • The Virtual Assistant tool is part of the Province’s case and contact management system. 

For more COVID-19 information:

We acknowledge that protests and rallies are a way for individuals to express themselves and their beliefs. Given the stay-at-home order (effective April 8 2021) and ongoing transmission of COVID-19 in our area, it is strongly encouraged that individuals consider alternate ways to participate in protests/rallies such as using social media and virtual protests.

Before joining a peaceful protest, consider the overall risk of infection to yourself and others. For more details on caseload and rate of infection in our community, visit the COVID-19 HealthSTATS page.

How to stay safe while attending a protest/ rally

Participation in virtual protest activities is the safest means of protesting during COVID-19 and is strongly advised over in person protest activities.

Those who choose to participate in an organized protest or rally event should do so in the safest way possible to protect themselves and others. At a minimum, the following measures should be communicated by organizers and followed by all participants.

  • Download the COVID Alert mobile app
  • Stay home if you are experiencing COVID-19 symptoms, seek testing, and self-isolate
  • Maintain physical distancing of at least 2 metres (6 feet). Wear a mask or a face covering when physical distancing cannot be maintained. Sneeze and cough into your upper sleeve or elbow, avoid touching your eyes, nose or mouth.
    o Post signage to reinforce these messages. Sample signage can be found here.
  • Where possible, provide handwashing stations and/or alcohol-based hand sanitizer containing 60-90% alcohol content. Encourage participants to frequently wash hands with soap and water if possible, and bring alcohol-based hand sanitizer to the event. 
  • Consider alternatives (e.g. signs, banners) to shouting or chanting to avoid spreading droplets. 

The following Section 22 orders (under the Health Protection and Promotion Act) and instructions (under the Reopening Ontario Act) have been issued in response to COVID-19 by SMDHU’s Medical Officer of Health, Dr. Charles Gardner:

Class Orders under Section 22

Letters of Instruction

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 originally took effect October 6, 2020, was revised on March 8, 2021 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: 

  • People with symptoms of COVID-19, regardless if they get tested. 
  • People who test positive for COVID-19. 
  • People in recent close contact with someone who has symptoms of COVID-19 or who tested positive for COVID-19. This includes caregivers and household members.
  • Household members of people in recent close contact with someone who tested positive for 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 generally means being within 2 metres (6 feet) of that infectious person for at least 15 minutes without adequate personal protective equipment (PPE), you must self-isolate for 14 days even if 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 a medical mask and protective eyewear. Cloth face coverings are not adequate PPE.

Household members of those who had close contact to someone with COVID-19 must stay home for the duration of the close contact’s isolation period, except for essential reasons to leave home, such as attending work, school, child care, or essential errands (e.g. getting groceries, attending medical appointments, picking up prescriptions).

Household members of people who have symptoms of COVID-19 must self-isolate until the ill person receives a negative COVID-19 test result or receives an alternate diagnosis by a healthcare professional. If the person with symptoms in the household does NOT get tested, everyone else in the household must stay home for:

  • 14 days from the last contact with the person with symptoms if the ill person can self-isolate away from the rest of the household; or 
  • 24 days from start of the ill person’s symptom(s) if the ill person CANNOT self-isolate away from the rest of the household.

A person who ignores the class order to self-isolate can be charged and fined up to $5,000 per day. The Heath Protection and Promotion Act also allows the Medical Officer of Health to go to court and seek additional orders to protect the health of the community.

For more information see Fact Sheet for Class Order for Self-Isolation.
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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. The variants are more contagious than the original COVID-19 strain, and result in more severe disease, which means it will take more intensive efforts of the same public health practices to prevent the spread to each other.Countries that have had high numbers of cases of variants of concern have experienced a third wave because of it. It’s important to act early to prevent that from happening here.

We are currently experiencing a surge in cases of the B.1.1.7 variant of COVID-19 in Barrie, throughout Simcoe County and in the District of Muskoka:

What we know about COVID-19 variants

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

  • 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 B.1.3.5.1
  • A Brazilian variant called P.1.

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 are 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 don't know

  • 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.

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

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. Below you can find information from: 

  • the COVID-19 impact survey, 
  • a situational assessment report and local reports used to understand the impacts of public health measures and potential strategies to mitigate harms; and 
  • an evaluation report of and lessons learned by the public health system from the first peak of COVID-19.

In November 2020, a COVID-19 Local Impact Survey on the mental, physical, social and financial impacts of the pandemic on residents 18 years of age and older was conducted in Simcoe Muskoka. A total of more than 2,300 residents completed the online survey. A follow-up to this survey competed in spring 2021 will provide additional data to assess changes in behaviours and attitudes. Both surveys include a representative panel group as well as a convenience sample. In total, over 2000 residents participated in the survey.

Results of first COVID-19 Local Impact Survey now available on our HealthSTATS page here

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.

Page last updated: May 6, 2021

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