Public health officials are urging anyone who attended a car rally at an Ontario beach town over the weekend to self-monitor for symptoms of COVID-19.
Since it's too early to know if there was any community transmission at the event in Wasaga Beach, the local public health unit said Tuesday that anyone present at the rally should be extra cautious.
"If they develop symptoms they should be self-isolating and seek assessment," said Dr. Charles Gardner, medical officer of health for Simcoe Muskoka Public Health.
Because the event drew car enthusiasts from all over Ontario, Gardner said it would be challenging to do contact tracing if a COVID-19 case is connected to the rally.
"The transmission that could occur could potentially be widespread, not geographically localized, so it could affect more than just Simcoe Muskoka," said Gardner.
"It could go beyond, depending on where everybody had come from and there could also be local transmission with people coming from areas that are higher risk right now."
Police officers had to close the town of Wasaga Beach to non-residents on Saturday after hundreds of car enthusiasts gathered over the weekend.
Ontario Provincial Police said they issued 11 tickets in connection with the event for violating the Reopening Ontario Act, a law which, in part, governs the size of social gatherings in the province.
The force said it also issued 172 tickets for things like speeding, dangerous driving, not wearing a seatbelt, and careless driving.
Police have said the event is believed to be related to a larger car rally in the United States. Due to the pandemic-related border closure, the Canadian group decided to have a meet-up in Wasaga Beach, OPP said.
Simcoe Muskoka has reported 44 new COVID-19 cases since last Thursday, bringing the region's total number of cases up to 884.
Ontario reported 554 new cases of COVID-19 on Tuesday and four new deaths from the illness.
Gardner noted that as the case totals in Simcoe Muskoka rise along with the province's second wave, it is increasingly difficult for the public health unit to keep up with testing, contact tracing, and case management.
"It is getting tougher," said Gardner. "These are large numbers of contacts for us to follow up on. We haven't yet in Simcoe Muskoka reached the number of cases we peaked out on in April-May, but it's going up rapidly so we may very well get there."
The health unit has used money from the provincial government to hire more public health nurses to assist with schools reopening, including some dedicated to contact tracing and case management, he said.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published on Sept. 29, 2020.
John Chidley-Hill, The Canadian Press