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Easter dinner guests should only be virtual, says Simcoe-Muskoka medical officer of health

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Dr. Charles Gardner provides an update on the status of Simcoe Muskoka region COVID-19 cases on April 2.

COLLINGWOOD — The region’s chief medical officer of health is recommending you cancel your Easter plans, unless they involve virtual dinner guests and isolated egg-hunting.

Dr. Charles Gardner, medical officer of health for Simcoe Muskoka District Health Unit (SMDHU), addressed the upcoming holiday in an April 2 media briefing.

“This is going to be extremely difficult because it’s Easter … and I just really want to emphasize the importance of people doing things differently this year.”

Gardner said he understands Easter and other religious holiday celebrations would normally include visiting family and friends.

“This is not a normal year,” he said. “This is a year when we all need to be doing our part to avoid transmission and that means connecting with people from a distance.”

Gardner said people should not be getting together with anyone outside of their household, and that includes other family members.

“We need to really be respecting the restrictions that the provincial government has put in place about no more than five people gathering and it’s much more preferable that only household members get together,” he said.

He cautioned against even gatherings of five people, all of whom might have been practising physical distancing and staying at home except for essential errands.

“It’s very important to realize that transmission is happening now in our community, and that you don’t know who is a case and who is not,” said Gardner. “Often people can be asymptomatic, particularly young children, yet still transmitting to others.”

The doctor suggested connecting with family and friends using distance technology instead.

Gardner said the SMDHU predicts local cases, particularly community-acquired cases, will continue to rise in the region.

“We do expect this situation to transpire over months to come,” he said. “I think people need to think in terms of the importance of being able to do this over a long period of time. Being able to manage over a long period of time.”

He noted he expects eventually there will be a vaccine, but until that time, people will have to remain cautious and there will be transmission control measures in place.

There are now 71 lab-confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Simcoe County and Muskoka. Testing is only available to people showing severe symptoms, or those who are close contacts of known cases and showing symptoms. Health care workers may also be tested in cases of close contact or where symptoms are showing.

According to Gardner, the rate of testing for Simcoe County is about 24 tests per 10,000 population. In Muskoka, that rate is lower at 18.8 tests per 10,000 population.

For more than two weeks, Gardner has been urging the community to practise physical distancing and behave as though everyone in the community could be transmitting the virus.

“You need to exercise physical distancing in all cases and in all activities,” he said.