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COVID-19

Simcoe Muskoka, along with the rest of Ontario, has entered Step 3 of the province’s Roadmap to Reopen. Please continue to practice public health measures to stop the spread of COVID-19.

COVID-19 Vaccination

Vaccinating as many people as possible will reduce COVID-19 in our community and get us back to the people and things we love. By getting vaccinated, you benefit from the protection you get against COVID-19 and the easing of restrictive measures in your community. If you are fully vaccinated check out these guidelines for what you can do now for informal/social activities.  

Regardless of your vaccination status everyone must continue to follow public health measures:  

  • Stay home when sick and get tested. 
  • Wear a face covering in an indoor area of a business or organization that is open; at an indoor organized public event and within 2 metres (6 feet) of another individual; at some outdoor public events or settings (see Ontario.ca for more information on these settings).
  • Physical distance from those outside your household in indoor area of business or facility that is open to the public or at an indoor organized public event.
  • Limit indoor gatherings to 25 people.
  • Limit outdoor gatherings to 100 people.

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

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

  • Isolate to the later of 10 days from symptom onset or test date, unless otherwise directed by public health. 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 or positive test date if you do not have symptoms.
  • Individuals who have tested positive for COVID 19 can still receive their COVID-19 vaccination, however, they should wait until their isolation period is complete and their COVID-19 symptoms have resolved.

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 (revised July 29, 2021) and take the following steps to stop the spread of COVID-19.

If you are fully vaccinated*:

  • You are generally not required to stay home or self-isolate as long as you don’t have any symptoms, however if you have been exposed to a variant other than Alpha (originating from the UK) or Delta or if you reside in a congregate living setting you will be required to self-isolate due to decreased effectiveness of the vaccine against Beta and Gamma variants.
  • Testing as a close contact is still recommended. 
  • It is recommended that you notify your workplace that you have been exposed to COVID-19. 
  • If you develop symptoms, please stay home and contact the health unit as soon as possible. You can leave the house to get tested. For testing centre locations, visit our assessment centres and testing page.

If you are not fully vaccinated*:

  • 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.

*Fully vaccinated is defined as an individual who is more than 14 days after receiving the second dose of a two -dose COVID-19 vaccine series.

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 positive 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. 

The Simcoe Muskoka Safe Voluntary Isolation Site (SVIS) is a place for people who need to self-isolate due to COVID-19 but do not have access to an adequate shelter or cannot safely self-isolate in their own homes. The SVIS is designed to give people a secure, comfortable, and private space to rest and recover, without fear or anxiety of transmitting the virus to their family, roommates, or other people they live with. 

Self-isolation is a proven way to reduce the risk of spreading COVID-19 among household members and the community at-large. Under the Class Order for Self-Isolation issued by Simcoe Muskoka’s Medical Officer of Health, people in Simcoe Muskoka must self-isolate if they have any of the following:

  • Symptoms of COVID-19, regardless of vaccination status and/or if they get tested.
  • A positive COVID-19 test result.
  • Recent close contact with someone who has COVID-19 symptoms or a positive COVID-19 test result.
  • A household member who has had recent close contact with someone who tested positive for COVID-19.

 

Do you need help to self-isolate?

Any Simcoe Muskoka resident that is unable to safely self-isolate is eligible to access this service. There are no costs associated with staying at the SVIS and transportation can be arranged for those who need it, free of charge. Through case and contact investigations, public health professionals at the Simcoe Muskoka District Health Unit will assess individuals’ needs to help identify those who require safe accommodation for COVID-19 self-isolation. Please call our Health Connection line at 705-721-7520 or 1-877-721-7520 ext. 5829 or send an email to Health Connection using our online form for more information and how to access this service.

Please note that the health unit is required to provide your COVID-19 status, either positive or negative, to the SVIS so that they can take any necessary infection prevention and control measures. Your COVID-19 status will only be shared with necessary staff.

For more COVID-19 information:

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 May 27, 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 are fully vaccinated and/or 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 are not fully vaccinated and 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.

Unless they are fully vaccinated, 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 who is not fully vaccinated 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 (revised June 1, 2021).

It is common for viruses to change and mutate as they spread through the population. Several variants of the COVID-19 virus have been detected around the world and cases of each of these variants have been identified in Ontario and Simcoe Muskoka. These variants include:

  • The Alpha (B.1.1.7) variant first found in the United Kingdom;
  • The Beta (B.1.351) variant first found in South Africa;
  • The Gamma (P.1) variant first found in Brazil, and;
  • The Delta (B.1.617) variant first found in India.

Ongoing research has shown that these variants are more contagious than the original COVID-19 virus, and often result in more severe disease. Many countries, including Canada, have experienced COVID-19 waves because of these variants. In Ontario and Simcoe Muskoka, we are currently experiencing a surge in cases of the Delta variant.

What we know so far about the Delta (B.1.617) variant

  • The Delta variant was first detected in India in March 2021 and has since spread to many countries around the world, including Canada.
  • The Delta variant spreads more easily than the Alpha variant. As a result, it has become the dominant strain of COVID-19 in Ontario and Simcoe Muskoka.
  • The COVID-19 vaccines used in Canada are somewhat less effective at preventing infection from the Delta variant, especially after only a single dose. Full vaccination is important for maximum protection against illness, severe disease, and hospitalization from this variant.

For more information, see Public Health Ontario’s resource: COVID-19 B.1.1.7 Variant of Concern - What We Know So Far

How to protect yourself and others from the COVID-19 variants

One of the most important ways you can protect yourself, your loved ones, and your community from the COVID-19 variants is by getting your first and second vaccine doses as soon as you can. Full vaccination is important to ensure maximum protection against the variants and, especially, the Delta variant. The best vaccine for your first or second dose is the first vaccine that is available to you. Find out more information about COVID-19 vaccines and immunization here.

Along with getting vaccinated, we all need to continue to take everyday actions to stop the spread of COVID-19 and its variants. It is important for everyone to follow the public health restrictions and guidelines in place under the province’s Roadmap to Reopen to help prevent the spread of COVID-19 in our communities.

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, may be at risk of getting COVID-19 from someone who has the virus, particularly if they are not vaccinated.  
  • 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. Variants of COVID-19 are more contagious and our vaccines may not be as strong against them so we need to be vigilant in our measures against COVID-19. The measures are the same: 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, and get vaccinated with the two-dose series of COVID-19 vaccine. 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: July 29, 2021

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