Health unit modifies investigation processes as COVID-19 cases surge in Simcoe Muskoka

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Simcoe Muskoka District Health Unit says the number of COVID-19 cases in the region has increased over the past three weeks, with 247 new cases reported for the week of Oct. 31, an increase that is nearly double the 127 cases reported for the week of Oct. 24.
Over the past two weeks, the incident rate rose from 21.0 cases per 100,000 per week during the week of Oct. 24-30 to 40.9 cases per 100,000 per week for the week of Oct. 31 to Nov. 6. By contrast, the province and surrounding public health units saw incidence rates of 17.0 and 22.3 for the same respective timeframes.
“When case counts rise, the number of close contacts and potential exposure locations requiring follow-up also increases,” said medical officer of health Dr. Charles Gardner. “As we have done previously, the health unit is modifying its case and contact management processes so that we can continue to reach new lab-confirmed cases as quickly as possible while also managing current capacity issues.”
The health unit says it will continue contacting individuals who test positive for COVID-19 for an interview. When contacted, an individual will receive isolation directions and instructions for notifying their close contacts based on the length of time spent together, physical proximity and whether they live in the same household. Anyone who is not fully immunized and is identified as a close contact of an individual who tested positive is required to self-isolate for 10 days from their last exposure and get tested for COVID-19.
The health unit will continue to prioritize outbreaks and exposure site investigations in settings based on vulnerability and SMDHU capacity. However, when case counts rise, the number of exposure settings also increases and impacts the health unit’s capacity to follow up with exposure locations in a timely way.
“With the cooler weather, more people are spending time indoors with people from outside of their household. As the number of cases trends upwards, I urge all residents to continue practicing preventative measures, including completing daily COVID-19 screenings, physical distancing from those living outside your household, masking and frequent handwashing. It is essential that individuals stay home when feeling ill, even if symptoms are mild and seek assessment and testing. As well, individuals who have not yet received their COVID-19 vaccination are encouraged to get vaccinated as soon as they are able.”

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