Simcoe Muskoka's top doctor receives 'over 200 emails,' about the latest lockdown

On day two of the latest lockdown, Simcoe Muskoka's medical officer of health said he's aware of opposing opinions regarding the tightened restrictions after receiving "over 200 emails."

Simcoe County and Muskoka rolled back into lockdown restrictions on Monday after less than two weeks in the red zone amid concerns surrounding local UK B.1.1.7 variant cases.

The region's medical officer of health, Dr. Charles Gardner, said over 60 per cent of the region's cases are variants of concern, prompting him to advise the province stricter measures would help to prevent a possible third wave.

So far this week, the health unit reports 47 COVID-19 cases. Seventy-one per cent screened positive for a variant.

"I made the recommendation to the province that they would look to a means of better control," said Dr. Charles Gardner during a Facebook Live update Tuesday.

"We are looking at the trend with the variants, but I think, more importantly, we are looking at how that impacts overall cases of COVID-19 and whether it will result in a surge in overall cases," he added.

Meanwhile, many local business owners have had it.

"We really don't agree with Gardner's last decision and orders to put us back in grey. We've been operating safely since COVID has begun, and there's just no facts to prove that small businesses have contributed to this outbreak," Barrie restaurant owner Stefano Agostino said.

Agostino started an online petition with North Swing Golf Lounge owner, Emil Kamel, that has gathered over 21,000 signatures.

In Wasaga Beach and Collingwood, councillors passed motions to request the province place the region in a less restrictive zone.

"Our job as council members is to speak up for our community," said Wasaga Beach Mayor Nina Bifolchi. "I shared our concerns about the shift to Grey-lockdown in an email to Premier Ford as well as Dr. Charles Gardner, our chief medical officer of health, and it is why council passed the motion it did," Bifolchi added.

"I have heard from many business owners that the financial burden of another lockdown will be devastating, and we are advocating with the province and health unit to get local businesses open and operating," said Collingwood Mayor Brian Saunderson.

Dr. Gardner said he supports the tightened measures to help reduce variant transmission but noted the decision on the framework ultimately "rests with the province" and that he communicates daily with Ontario's chief medical officer of health "about how these trends are going."

"I can advise, but it is actually his (Dr. David Williams) decision what to take to cabinet to make a decision about change," he said.

The region's medical officer of health said he isn't surprised some business owners have refused to close amid the "strong negative reaction" to the lockdown.

"I am committed to good process, good communication, clarity about what we're doing, hearing people out, improving our message. Really, that's all I can do," he said.

As for business owners upset by the current situation, Dr. Gardner said he hears their frustration. "I've got a very tangible sense of their feeling about it, their anger about it, their frustration about it. I am certainly taking that to heart as I continue to communicate with the province."

The numbers released by the Simcoe Muskoka District Health Unit show a dip in COVID-19 cases, with 32 listed Tuesday and another new UK B.1.1.7 variant case.

Of the 32 new COVID-19 cases, 25 are reported among Barrie residents.

Public health confirmed 191 UK B.1.1.7 cases, with 352 cases that screened positive for a variant of concern, 44 more than last reported.

There are currently six active UK variant cases in Simcoe Muskoka and 125 active cases that screened positive for a variant of concern, but they require further testing to confirm.

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