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Region's top doctor cites 'dire' situation, says 'clearly we need new restrictions'

'The measures cited are strong and they are needed to bring the third wave under control and to prevent cases and deaths,' says Dr. Charles Gardner
2020-03-12 Charles Gardner
Dr. Charles Gardner, medical officer of health with the Simcoe Muskoka District Health, speaks to reporters on Thursday, March 12, 2020, at the Barrie offices following the announcement that a local man has tested positive for COVID-19. Shawn Gibson/BarrieToday

The province’s extended stay-at-home order and increased enforcement measures have the support of the Simcoe-Muskoka medical officer of health. 

After all, Dr. Charles Gardner has seen first-hand the fast-spreading, deadly impact of a variant strain of COVID-19 that prompted the Premier to declare parts of Ontario an "inferno."

The B.1.1.7 strain from the UK, the same one that caused the deaths of more than 70 people connected to an outbreak at Roberta Place in Barrie in January, is part of the reason Ontario is seeing record numbers of cases and hospitalizations. 

“It is distressing to me that we are in a dire situation now with a high and rapid increase in cases, hospitalizations and admissions to the ICU in the GTA and elsewhere in the province,” said Gardner in an email this afternoon (April 16). “Clearly this is a very serious situation requiring us all to abide by the provincial stay-at-home order.” 

Premier Doug Ford announced today the stay-at-home order will be extended for another two weeks (six weeks in total) to at least May 20. The province also tightened up the order, prohibiting any outdoor gatherings outside of mutual household members. 

“Clearly we need the new restrictions,” said Gardner. “It will take us a prolonged period of time to bring this severe third wave under control.” 

In Simcoe-Muskoka, about 20 per cent of the cases confirmed since Easter weekend have been linked to gatherings of people from different households.

Gardner has explained much of the transmission seen by case and contact tracers at the health unit shows people are spreading COVID-19 through close contact, whether that’s during social gatherings, at work, or in the home. 

The government has also vowed to step up inspections of workplaces and order workplaces to close where employees can work from home. Further restrictions also reduce capacity in stores that are open to 25 per cent, limit religious services to 10 people, and shut down non-essential construction. 

“The measures cited are strong and they are needed to bring the third wave under control and to prevent cases and deaths,” said Gardner. “They will need to be enforced and we will need people to take them to heart and abide by them.” 

The government has granted added authority to police for the duration of the stay-at-home order, allowing them to stop people who are not at home to ask why they are not at home and to ask for their address. 

Gardner said the health unit has been informed by the premier of enhanced enforcement measures. 

The doctor said his team will continue to work with police and bylaw officers in the region toward a collective enforcement effort that includes education followed by enforcement. 

“We will need people to take to heart the importance of compliance,” said Gardner. “This will be very hard on us, but our support for these measures is needed to bring this wave under control as soon as possible.” 

The health unit is currently struggling to keep up with case and contact management and is reminding residents of the region to stay home if they are experiencing symptoms of illness and/or if they have been in contact with someone who has tested positive for COVID-19. 

Gardner again encouraged anyone to take the first opportunity they have to get vaccinated when they are eligible. 

“It is indeed tragic that we are in this situation with the variants of concern and the third wave, however, we will succeed with bringing this under control together through the control measures and through vaccination,” he said. 

To read more about the restrictions announced today, click here. 

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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