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Gardner hopes stay-at-home order will curb local gatherings

'With a stay-at-home order, it becomes the law that people stick to their immediate household and it makes it a simple message,' says Dr. Charles Gardner
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Dr. Charles Gardner delivers a media briefing on Tuesday, March 30.

The region’s medical officer of health said today’s stay-at-home order is needed more than ever as COVID’s third wave threatens to be worse than the second. 

There are more Simcoe County residents in intensive care units with COVID-19 than ever. 

Case counts are also on the rise with more than 560 cases in the last week, representing a 44 per cent increase week-over-week. 

The Simcoe Muskoka District Health Unit has reported a younger average age for those being infected, and conversely for those being admitted to intensive care units. From January to April, 36 per cent of the cases admitted to intensive care units have been individuals under 60 years old. 

“We are having success in immunizing older people,” said Dr. Charles Gardner, medical officer of health for the region. “But with larger numbers overall, I think this speaks to the increased severity of the variants that are impacting more younger people.” 

But the region has been under relatively strict control measures since before Christmas. Simcoe-Muskoka was in the provincial framework red-control zone in December, then under the province’s shutdown until mid-Feburary. The region was back in the red zone after that, with one week of grey-lockdown. 

There are fewer outbreaks at institutional settings such as long-term care homes, which used to account for many of the local cases. 

But transmission is still occurring, and Gardner attributes it to gathering. 

“It’s very much an interplay between household clusters and workplace settings being dominant settings for transmission,” he said. 

But without a stay-at-home order, it wasn’t illegal to have people over at your house. Public health advice was to limit any close contact (indoors or outdoors) to only those who live in the same household as you. 

“To me, the whole idea of not having people over is a critical one,” said Gardner. “I’ve seen some data that shows that’s the one people have trouble with. … There’s much better compliance with hand-washing and mask use.” 

He said gathering with people indoors in a home is a “high-risk” activity. 

In February, when the province lifted the last stay-at-home order, Gardner publicly stated he wished the province would leave it in place longer.

“I felt back then it was important to maintain the control measures that had been taken away,” he said. “I’m glad they’re back they’re needed more than ever.” 

He said there will always be people who do not abide by the requirements in place, but he believes a great majority want to. 

“With a stay-at-home order, it becomes the law that people stick to their immediate household and it makes it a simple message,” said Gardner. “It’s valuable for us to get across something people will understand.” 

The doctor said the other important aspect of the latest stay-at-home order and the provincewide shutdown that was announced last week is that it applies to every region in Ontario. 

Gardner said a provincewide application of the shutdown and stay-at-home measures will ensure there are not different things open in each region, encouraging travel to access services. 

He's also glad to see this time the order includes blocking off non-essential items in box stores, limiting in-person sales to groceries and pharmacy items. 

"I would agree that it should apply in all settings including big box stores in order to be the most effective... and to avoid mingling," said Gardner, adding he's heard concerns about fairness among retailers who are calling for a more common approach to shutdown measures.

Erika Engel

About the Author: Erika Engel

Erika regularly covers all things news in Collingwood as a reporter, photographer and community editor.
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