Simcoe Muskoka reports 16 new COVID-19 cases on eve of stay-at-home order's end

The Simcoe Muskoka health unit reports the lowest single-day COVID-19 case count since Nov. 2020, with 16 new infections Tuesday.

Dr. Charles Gardner, the region's medical officer of health, attributes the significant decline in cases to the increasing number of vaccines administered.

"I see that we're getting a really good and robust response to the vaccination campaign," he mentioned during a live conference on Tuesday.

To date, the health unit reports 53 per cent of eligible residents have received their first shot, and 6.3 per cent have had both.

Complete information on Simcoe Muskoka's COVID-19 vaccination program is available here.

There are 303 active COVID-19 cases in the region, including 26 hospitalizations.

Gardner said cases are down from the peak of the third wave and noted there had been no COVID-19-related deaths in the past week. "We've had deaths every week since November 22, 2020," he said.

COVID-19 has claimed the lives of 245 Simcoe Muskoka residents to date.

"COVID-19 is a seasonal virus," he added, saying the virus would likely ramp back up in the fall with the cooler weather.

Outbreaks

There are currently nine active outbreaks in the region, one in a long-term care home, two in congregate settings and six in workplaces.

Schools

Despite the drop in infections, it looks like students could finish off the school year online, according to CTV Toronto sources.

CTV News learned the government's planning and priorities committee made the initial decision not to send students back to in-person learning on Monday. Still, the decision could change - it needs to be finalized in a cabinet meeting on Wednesday.

There is no word when an announcement would be made for parents and school boards.

Gardner said he continues to support a return to school, saying the health benefits outweigh any concerns surrounding infections. "It would be best to open schools at this time," he said, adding that "ultimately, it's the province's decision."

Gardner noted the premier's concerns surrounding new variants and a potential for an increase in cases that "could undermind our ability to otherwise continue with a roadmap of opening up."

Reopening

After two months, the province-wide stay-at-home order ends Wednesday, but the emergency brake remains in place with its own set of restrictions.

Residents will be able to leave home for non-essential purposes, but outdoor gatherings are limited to five people, and indoor gatherings remain illegal.

The province enters its three-tiered reopening program in mid-June, with its own set of staged regulations.