COVID-19 community risk level in Simcoe Muskoka increases to high
On Nov. 23, the Simcoe Muskoka District Health Unit (SMDHU) moved the region’s overall COVID-19 Community Risk Level from moderate to high as the virus continues to circulate within the community. This is the first time the risk level has been at high since December 2022. There has been an increase in local COVID-related hospitalizations and deaths in the last few weeks. Since September 2023, there have been 39 deaths in which COVID-19 is either the underlying or contributing cause of death. All but one of them were individuals 65 years of age and older.
“With the higher level of COVID-19 transmission in Simcoe Muskoka, there is a greater risk of getting sick with potential for severe illness,” said
Dr. Colin Lee, SMDHU’s associate medical officer of health. “Getting this season’s COVID-19 vaccine as soon as you are able if it has been six months since your last COVID infection or vaccination will help to protect you and those around you. It is also important to layer protective measures as ways to help prevent illness.”
The COVID-19 Community Risk Level is based on five indicators (percent positivity of PCR tests, local cases, hospitalizations, institutional outbreaks, and wastewater surveillance) that are monitored weekly. Together, these indicators make up the current overall COVID-19 risk level in our community as one of the following levels: lower (caution), moderate, high, or very high. At this time, we are seeing increased activity in four of those indicators, including hospitalizations due to COVID-19 infection, which puts the level at high.
The health unit recommends that individuals be aware of the COVID-19 Community Risk Level and Weekly Respiratory Virus Update, assess their own personal circumstances that could put them at higher risk, and to take necessary precautions to protect themselves and others against transmission of respiratory viruses and severe illness.
The more precautions a person takes the better they and others will be protected. This can be done by:
• Staying home when you are sick with any symptoms of respiratory illness and keeping children home from school or child care if they are ill.
• Cleaning hands and disinfecting high-touch surfaces frequently; covering your mouth and nose when you cough or sneeze.
• Wearing a mask in indoor public settings, especially if you are at higher risk of severe infection.
If you fall ill and are 60 years and older, or are at a higher risk of severe illness, you should test yourself for COVID 19 using a home rapid antigen test (RAT) and seek medical care as soon as possible as you may benefit from available COVID-19 treatment.
RAT kits are available to the public for free at SMDHU and can be picked up at all health unit offices (excluding the Barrie clinic at 80 Bradford St.) during regular business hours. They may also be available at pharmacies and health care provider offices.
Individuals aged six months and older who are not up to date with their COVID-19 vaccines are able to receive the updated XBB formulation free of charge at participating local pharmacies, some health care providers and health unit clinics. For information on health unit clinics, please visit our website for dates and locations. In addition to appointments, some health unit clinics will accept walk- ins as they are able. Appointments are available online through the Provincial Vaccine Contact Centre or by calling 1-833-943-3900.
The health unit also strongly recommends getting the influenza vaccine. This vaccine is available free of charge to individuals aged five years and older at participating local pharmacies, health care providers and health unit clinics. Children aged six months to two years may receive the flu shot from a doctor, nurse, or health unit clinic by appointment.