Simcoe Muskoka sees 'surge' in COVID-19 cases, with cottage country leading the way

The health unit reports a "surge in cases," with 60 new COVID-19 infections in Simcoe Muskoka on Wednesday, plus one virus-related death.

The health unit said a Simcoe County woman, 45 to 64 died on Tuesday, becoming the region's 278th COVID-19 death.

In the first 24 days of November, 12 people living in Simcoe Muskoka have died after contracting the virus.

LOCAL CASE COUNTS SURGE IN NOVEMBER

Case counts have spiked over recent weeks, something of concern for the region's medical officer of health.

"We are definitely experiencing a substantial rise in our cases," Dr. Charles Gardner noted on Wednesday.

"We've had nearly as many cases occur in November as occurred in total in September and October," he added.

According to Dr. Gardner, November marks the first time in the pandemic that Simcoe Muskoka has surpassed the province's transmission rate.

"We are more than double the provincial rate," he said. "We're going up at a higher rate than the province."

The new cases listed on Wednesday are in Barrie (18), Huntsville (7), New Tecumseth (7), Midland (4), Adjala-Tosorontio (4), Springwater (3), Bradford (2), Orillia (3), Wasaga Beach (2), Ramara (2), Essa (3), Oro-Medonte, Severn and Penetanguishene.

MUSKOKA EXPERIENCES SPIKE IN CASES

While most cases have consistently been reported in Barrie and south Simcoe throughout the pandemic, the health unit said Muskoka is experiencing a surge with outbreaks in schools or other settings with children.

"This is something new and important for people in Muskoka to be aware of."  Dr. Gardner said Muskoka's transmission rates had trailed well behind Simcoe County, but stated, "That is not the case right now."

Bracebridge now has the highest incidence rate per 100,000 population, with Barrie second.

VACCINATION IN SIMCOE MUSKOKA

"Immunization is the single most important thing you can do to protect yourself," the top doctor mentioned.

On Wednesday, the health unit reported over 6,700 appointments were booked for children aged five to 11 for their first COVID-19 vaccine shot.

There are currently 20 active school outbreaks, prompting Dr. Gardner to remind parents to screen their children for symptoms each morning.

Children under 12 make up just over 25 per cent of new cases.