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COVID-19

PLEASE READ BEFORE YOU CALL: Our Health Connection phone line is experiencing a very high call volume which is impacting our response time and unfortunately your call may be disconnected. Due to our limited capacity we cannot guarantee a response to voicemails or emails. For the most up to date information see our COVID-19 webpages. If you have a health concern call your health care provider or Telehealth 1-866-797-0000.

With the ongoing surge of the highly transmissible Omicron variant, following public health measures is more important than ever to limit the spread of COVID-19 in Ontario. These measures include getting vaccinated (especially booster doses), wearing a well fitted 3-layer mask indoors and outdoors when physical distancing is difficult, physical distancing, avoiding crowds, limiting your contacts outside of your household members, ventilation, hand washing, cough etiquette, and staying home when sick. Now is the time to keep your social circle small and avoid the 3 Cs: closed spaces, crowded places and close contacts.

Quick links:

Stay up to date about the local COVID-19 situation by viewingSMDHU's medical officer of health, Dr. Gardner’s weekly media briefings

What to do if you have COVID-19 symptoms or tested positive for COVID-19

If you have symptoms do this self-assessment to get recommendations on what to do next. If you took a PCR or a rapid antigen test (RAT) and got a positive result you MUST self-isolate and follow the instructions below. If you tested positive on a RAT, you do not need to book a PCR test to confirm your results.

If you have any symptoms of COVID-19 you should assume that you may have the virus and are contagious. Symptoms include: fever or chills, cough, shortness of breath, decreased or loss of taste or smell, or two or more of the following:

  • Runny nose or nasal congestion
  • Headache
  • Extreme fatigue
  • Sore throat
  • Muscle aches or joint pain
  • Gastrointestinal symptoms such as vomiting or diarrhea

 

If you have symptoms, you and everyone you live with must isolate for 5 days if you are fully vaccinated and otherwise healthy, or are If are 11 years of age or younger. You can end isolation after 5 days only if your symptoms have improved for at least for 24 hours and you are following all public health measures such as masking and physical distancing.

If you are not fully vaccinated or are immunocompromised, you and all household members MUST isolate for 10 days.

Notify your close contacts that they have been exposed and tell them to follow the instructions on this webpage or at ontario.ca/exposed . A close contact is anyone you were less than two metres away from for at least 15 minutes (or multiple shorter lengths of time) before your symptoms began.

If you work or live in a high risk-health care setting (including hospitals, long-term care, retirement homes, congregate living settings) you MUST notify your employer and isolate for 10 days from your exposure or symptom onset.

DO NOT leave your isolation to go to a vaccination appointment. If you scheduled your appointment through the provincial online vaccine booking system, you can cancel or change your appointment online or by calling the Provincial Vaccine Contact Centre at 1-833-943-3900.

PCR Tests:

  • To ensure PCR tests are available for the most vulnerable people in the most high-risk settings, eligibility for PCR testing has changed.
  • For full details on eligibility for a PCR test are available here.

Rapid Antigen Tests (RATs):

Rapid antigen tests can be used for routine and repeated screening of people with or without symptoms. They are an additional screening tool that we can use to reduce the spread of COVID-19. The rapid tests can give you a result in about 15 minutes and don’t require shipping to a lab.

  • I tested positive on the rapid antigen test, what do I do next?
    If you took a rapid antigen test and got a positive result you no longer need a PCR test to confirm the result and you do not need to report this result to the health unit. 
  • I tested negative on a rapid antigen test
    If you have symptoms, take a second test 24-48 hours later if available. If your second test is negative you most likely do not have COVID-19.

    If you feel unwell but do not have symptoms, you and your household members should isolate until your symptoms have improved for at least 24 hours.

    A negative result does not replace other public health measures. Continue to wear a medical or 3- layer well-fitted mask, get vaccinated and stay home when ill.
  • I am vaccinated and took at rapid antigen test, could this cause a false positive result?
    The vaccines do not interfere with COVID-19 test results used to look for infection and do not give false positive test results.
  • How to dispose of rapid antigen tests
    Put COVID-19 home testing devices into your garbage. This includes any small plastic components. You can recycle any of the cardboard and paper packaging.
  • Find out more about RATs here

Due to limited capacity and increasing COVID-19 case numbers a COVID-19 case investigator may not be able to contact you. Here is what you need to do if you test positive for COVID-19: 

You need to self-isolate immediately:

  • Fully vaccinated or aged 11 or younger: You MUST isolate for 5 days from symptom onset or from the date of your test, whichever came first.
  • Your isolation can end after 5 days IF your symptoms are improved for at least 24 hours (48 hours if gastrointestinal symptoms), and you continue to follow all public health safety measures, such as masking and physical distancing.
  • Twelve years of age and older and not fully vaccinated or are immunocompromised, regardless of age: You MUST isolate for 10 days after your symptoms began or your positive test result, whichever came first.
  • All your household members, regardless of their vaccination status, must also self-isolate while you are self-isolating 
  • Notify your close contacts that they have been exposed and tell them to follow the instructions on this webpage or at ontario.ca/exposed. A close contact is anyone you were less than two metres away from for at least 15 minutes (or multiple shorter lengths of time) before your symptoms began or your positive test result, whichever came first.
  • If you work or live in a high risk-health care setting (including hospitals, long-term care, retirement homes, congregate living settings), you MUST notify your employer and isolate for 10 days from your exposure or symptom onset, or from your date of diagnosis.

Individuals who have tested positive for COVID COVID-19 can still receive their COVID-19 vaccination, however, they must wait until their isolation period is complete and their COVID-19 symptoms have resolved.

DO NOT leave your isolation to go to a vaccination appointment. If you scheduled your appointment through the provincial online vaccine booking system, you can cancel or change your appointment online or by calling the Provincial Vaccine Contact Centre at 1-833-943-3900.

A negative COVID-19 test, medical note or release from isolation from public health is not required to return to school, work or activities when your isolation period is over. Some people continue to test positive for up to 90 days after their COVID-19 infections. If you develop new symptoms compatible with COVID-19 after completing your required isolation you should isolate and speak with your health care provider.

Individuals who have previously been diagnosed with and cleared of COVID-19 infection may resume asymptomatic screening testing 30 days after their COVID-19 infection (i.e. 30 days after the date of their initial positive result). See: Antigen Screening Guidance   

What to do if you have been exposed to someone with COVID-19

If you are a close contact, you may be notified of your exposure in different ways depending on the situation. This could be by the person who tested positive; our Virtual Assistant (phone, text, email), a letter from your employer/school or directly by us or by a provincial partner assisting the health unit. If you have been exposed to someone with COVID-19, do this self-assessment  to get recommendations on what to do next.

Everyone in the household (including the person with COVID-19) MUST follow these instructions:

  • If you live with someone who has tested positive you MUST isolate for the same amount of time as the person who is infected, regardless of your vaccination status.
  • If you live with someone with symptoms, you must isolate for 5 days if you are fully vaccinated or are age 11 or under.
  • If you live with someone with symptoms and you are not fully vaccinated or are immunocompromised, you must isolate for 10 days.

DO NOT leave your isolation to go to a vaccination appointment. If you scheduled your appointment through the provincial online vaccine booking system, you can cancel or change your appointment online or by calling the Provincial Vaccine Contact Centre at 1-833-943-3900.

If you are fully vaccinated , have no symptoms and are otherwise healthy, or are aged 11 years or under:

  • Self-monitor for symptoms for 10 days after your last exposure to that person.
  • If leaving home, wear a mask and practice physical distancing and all other public health measures.
  • Do not visit any high-risk settings or people who are at higher risk of illness (such as the elderly) for 10 days after your last exposure.
  • If you develop any symptoms you and your household members must isolate for 5 days from the onset of your symptoms.

If you are NOT fully vaccinated or are immunocompromised:

  • Isolate for 10 days after your last exposure, regardless of whether you have any symptoms.

If you work, live or volunteer in a high-risk setting (e.g. health care settings, congregate and seniors living settings, First Nations, Inuit and Metis communities):

  • Tell them of your exposure and do not go there for 10 days from your last exposure.

For more COVID-19 information:


It is common for viruses to change and mutate as they spread through the population. 

What we know so far about the Omicron (B.1.1.529) variant of concern

The Omicron variant is more transmissible than other variants at this time. There is ongoing international data gathering on the impact of this variant on severity of illness and on vaccine effectiveness. 

The widely used PCR tests continue to detect infection, including infection with Omicron, as we have seen with other variants as well.

How to protect yourself and others from the Omicron variant

One of the most important ways you can protect yourself, your loved ones and your community from the COVID-19 Omicron variant is by getting your first, second and  booster dose vaccine  as soon as you can. Although our vaccines appear to be less effective against transmission of Omicron, evidence is showing us that they still likely provide strong protection against severe illness, especially with a booster dose. Find out more information about COVID-19 vaccines and immunization here.

We must also continue to reduce the spread of the COVID-19 virus by physical distancing from others, limit your contacts outside of your household members, wear a well-fitting mask, open windows to improve ventilation, avoid poorly ventilated or crowded spaces, keep hands clean, cough or sneeze into a bent elbow or tissue , stay home if you are sick, and isolate if you have symptoms of or have a positive test for COVID-19.  

Based on what we know from similar viruses, some reinfections are expected. With the emergence of Omicron, there is an increasing possibility of re-infection for people who have been previously infected with a different strain. In general, reinfection means a person was infected (got sick) once, recovered, and then later became infected again. With widespread transmission of COVID and the number of cases rising rapidly in Ontario, individuals who were previously positive for COVID-19, resolved/cleared then developed new onset of COVID-compatible symptoms can be presumed to be infected with COVID-19 and should self-isolate, regardless of how long it has been since previously positive or whether they had a recent high-risk exposure.  For people whose first infection occurred after December 20, it is likely that it was Omicron, and so they only need to self-isolate if they develop new COVID-19 symptoms (or a positive test) 30 days or longer following their first infection. (Note: the 30 days could be extended at some point, such as to the previous 90 days).

Long COVID or post COVID-19 describes a range of symptoms which can persist for weeks to months after severe, mildly symptomatic or asymptomatic COVID-19 infection. The symptoms associated with long COVID are varied and many, and affect people in different ways. They may remit and relapse. Most common symptoms include:

  • fatigue
  • memory problems
  • sleep disturbances 
  • shortness of breath
  • headaches
  • general pain and discomfort
  • difficulty thinking and concentrating

Resource: FAQ on Long COVID from OCFP 

Virtual Assistant (VA) to helping us in our case management efforts. The VA is an 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 follow the instrutions on this page or at ontario.ca/exposed.  

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.

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.  
  • 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. 

The City of Barrie, the City of Orillia, the Town of Collingwood and the Town of Midland are participating in the province-wide Wastewater Surveillance Initiative for COVID-19. Since February 2021, they have been providing samples from their wastewater treatment plants that are 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 plants collect and treat wastewater from across their communities, which allows for centralized measuring of the level of 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 these communities is increasing, decreasing, or staying the same.

The samples are analyzed by Ontario Tech University. Wastewater surveillance for our local communities is updated on our COVID-19 Wastwater Surveillance HealthSTATS page..

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. 


Class orders and Letters of Instruction

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.

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

How is COVID-19 affecting you and your family?

Since March 2020, our lives have been affected in many ways by the COVID-19 pandemic. The health unit conducted a situational assessment in July 2020 and a local impact survey in November 2020 to understand the impacts that some public health measures have had on us. The sections below include the reports and findings of the assessment and the survey. 

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. 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 follow-up 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)

Page last updated: January 25, 2022

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