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COVID-19

We are updating our website and guidance materials to reflect the move to RED-CONTROL effective 12:01 a.m. on Monday March 8, 2021. In the meantime, please find more information about RED-CONTROL on the provincial website.

See the March 6, 2021 letter to the people of Simcoe County, the District of Muskoka, and the Cities of Barrie and Orillia from our Medical Officer of Health, Dr. Gardner.

Vaccination appointments and wait list are FULL

Our vaccination appointments and wait list for dates up to and including March 16, 2021 are FULL. Those who are currently on the wait list will be contacted by the health unit with an appointment date between March 10th to 16th. We ask for your patience as we call those on the wait list.

  • For detailed information for eligibility criteria click here.
  • For more information on how to prepare for your appointment click here.
  • For more information on how to cancel an appointment click here.

Please Note: When we call to book your appointment we will NEVER ask for your SIN or banking information. We do ask you to confirm your date of birth to book the appointment.

The province of Ontario is launching a new booking system and call centre to support COVID-19 vaccine appointment booking in mid-March. We will provide more details about how to book via this new system as information becomes available.

For general information on vaccine safety and the local vaccination plan click here

Simcoe Muskoka is in GREY- LOCKDOWN

Effective Monday March 1, 2021 at 12:01 a.m., the Simcoe Muskoka District Health Unit (SMDHU) region is in the Grey-Lockdown level classification in the Province of Ontario’s COVID-19 response framework: Keeping Ontario Safe and Open. The framework guides public health restrictions based on COVID-19 transmission in the province.

The movement of Simcoe Muskoka into Grey-Lockdown on Monday is a short-term “emergency brake” intended to prevent the possibility of a third wave of the pandemic and it’s important that the community work together to overcome this risk.

Always stay home if you have symptoms, physically distance by staying two metres apart from people you don’t live with, wear a mask or face covering in indoor public spaces and avoid non-essential travel.

You are also strongly advised to:

  • stay home as much as possible
  • avoid social gatherings as it is currently illegal to gather indoors with anyone you do not live with
  • limit close contacts only to members of your household
  • always screen for symptoms before 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

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. 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:

  • We have the largest number of UK variant cases in the province.
  • As of Friday March 5, 217 local cases have been tested positive for the COVID-19 variant of concern UK B.1.1.7 and another 401 cases have screened positive and are awaiting confirmatory testing. See HealthSTATS for most recent data.
  • We are seeing large increases of cases and outbreaks of the B.1.1.7 (the UK) variant in workplaces, long term care facilities, a child care centre and an apartment building.

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 1.351. 
  • 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.

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 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.

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.

Page last updated: March 6, 2021

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