Simcoe Muskoka and the rest of Ontario is seeing a substantial increase in COVID-19 cases this month compared to July and August, leading to concerns about a second wave.
Since the start of the pandemic, Simcoe Muskoka has seen 825 cases, 82 of which are active, while New Tecumseth has had 96 cases with six people currently infected, as of press time.
Simcoe Muskoka Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Charles Garner said the public needs to rethink their potential sources of exposure to the virus as Ontario has been clocking around 400 cases a day.
"I would advise people at this time to stick with your household for close contact and shrink down your social circle to be in your household. I think it's time for us to reduce our exposure in the community,” he said.
"I'm also recommending that people, when they do go out, take precaution… really think in terms of what's essential for going out into exposure,” he noted.
Prior to Dr. Gardner’s recent recommendation, close contact was permitted in a social circle of up to 10 people that’s mutually exclusive.
The Simcoe Muskoka District Health Unit (SMDHU) is developing a campaign directed at youth to promote the control measures around COVID-19.
For upcoming events such as Thanksgiving, Dr. Gardner said to be very careful if inviting others into the household and ensure everybody can physically distance.
Halloween has become a source of concern for potential exposure of COVID-19. Premier Doug Ford said he’d prefer children stay home this year.
Dr. Gardner said he anticipates recommendations from the province soon on whether it can go forward and how to reduce the associated risks.
"People that are participating in it need to be handing over the candy with physical distancing. If there's a way for them to do that, perhaps out on a table at the doorstep is a way for reducing that contact, that would be beneficial,” he said.
"Parents, I think, need to think in terms of when you're going out with your children, reducing contact with other children.”
Remembrance Day also poses a challenge with large numbers of people usually gathering together for the annual Remembrance ceremonies.
“It needs to be planned in a way so that you're minimizing crowd gathering, that you get away from the idea of having large numbers of people gathering outside at the cenotaph or in other public places,” said Dr. Gardner.
Instead, the ceremonies should be conducted virtually, so they can be observed remotely or through some physically distanced means, he noted.
"People need to remember that this a particularly dangerous virus for older individuals and people with pre-existing medical conditions and certainly, with Remembrance Day there can be an older demographic of people that participate,” Dr. Gardner stressed.
“I really think that we need to plan this event to reduce the risk for them and the community at large and I do expect there will be some more specific recommendations from the province about that event."
In terms of Christmas parades, municipalities have already started thinking about if they’ll be able to go forward this year.
"In my opinion, parades [are] a thing we should not be doing in the year of the pandemic. We need to come up with other ways to celebrate that don't expose large numbers of people to each other in crowds,” noted Dr. Gardner.
Although, even with future control measures put in place, he said there’s still a long road ahead for bringing case counts back down.
“I think even if we do a really good job now of breaking the chain of transmission, we're going to see an upswing for a while before it comes back down again,” Dr. Gardner said.
“The cases that are transmitting right now will emerge and what we'd be preventing by acting now is the cases that follow them, so it’s very important that we get on top of it because if we don't it has all the potential to become a substantial second wave."
Sam Odrowski, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, New Tecumseth Times