Thanksgiving gatherings tied to almost 50 new COVID-19 cases, rates of infection continue to spike

There are currently two active school outbreaks, one at Bradford District High School that is impacting two classroom cohorts, and one at Hillcrest Public School in Barrie that is impacting one classroom cohort.


The suspected impact of Thanksgiving gatherings can now be seen as the Simcoe Muskoka District Health Unit reports 47 confirmed cases connected to 23 separating holiday gatherings.
According to the health unit, which updates Monday through Friday, there have been 111 new COVID-19 cases reported by the health unit so far this week, beginning Nov. 8. There were 141 new cases reported last week from Nov. 1 to 7, which was the highest number of cases reported in a single week since the start of the pandemic. This was the third consecutive week where weekly highs in reported cases were observed above 100.
There were more than 450 new cases reported in October, more than double what was reported in any previous month. As of Thursday, the caseload stood at 1,604 confirmed cases, 1,378 of which have recovered. The total number of related deaths remains at 50.
The seven-day moving average of new COVID-19 cases in Simcoe Muskoka steadily increased from early August to early October, from less than one case per day to more than 16 cases per day. The moving average dropped to 12 cases per day in mid-October; however, it then increased to more than 18 cases per day by the end of October. This increase could be due, in part, to gatherings that occurred over the Thanksgiving weekend.
Understanding the pandemic’s trajectory is key to developing policies and procedures related to numbers of people allowed in social gatherings, and workplace openings or closings. The lower the transmission rate, the flatter the curve and subsequent impact on the healthcare system. 
Flattening the curve doesn’t mean people won’t get the disease, but that infections will happen over a longer period of time, keeping hospitals from being overwhelmed. Lowering the transmission rate is key to keeping the virus at bay.
The report shows:
• There are currently two active school outbreaks, one at Bradford District High School that is impacting two classroom cohorts, and one at Hillcrest Public School in Barrie that is impacting one classroom cohort. Both schools remain open for all other students and staff. For more information and data about COVID-19 and school impacts, visit the Province of Ontario’s COVID-19 cases in schools and child care centres website.
• Over the first four months of the pandemic, from March to June, approximately one-fifth of all cases in Simcoe Muskoka were associated with an institutional outbreak. However, from July to September, one-in-seven new cases reported in October were associated with institutional outbreaks. 
• Residents of long-term care and retirement homes still have been the hardest hit by COVID-19, with one-third of cases succumbing to the illness. See the list of current institutional outbreaks for more details.
• There were 124 new COVID-19 tests per 10,000 population in Simcoe County and 68 tests per 10,000 population in Muskoka District for the most recent week. In comparison, the provincial testing rate was 172 tests per 10,000 population. 
• The testing rates among Simcoe Muskoka residents have increased for all age groups, with the exception of those 80 years and older, since July when compared with April to June.
• The percent positivity rate in Simcoe County is 1.4% and 0.4% in Muskoka District, compared to the provincial percent positivity rate of 2.2%. This is the highest weekly percent positivity in Simcoe County since May. A low percent positivity rate indicates the outbreak is under control, given more testing is finding a smaller and smaller proportion of positives.
• The percent positivity rate among Simcoe Muskoka adult males between 30 and 59 years of age is approximately twice as high as adult females of the same age. 
Other findings include:
• The effective reproductive number for a given period of time or Rt is the average number of secondary cases that a new case will infect. If Rt is greater than one it indicates that the spread of COVID-19 in Simcoe Muskoka is growing, and if Rt is less than one, the spread of COVID-19 is slowing and containment/mitigation efforts may be working to keep the outbreak under control.
• While the rate of new COVID-19 infections decreased for all age groups until June, from July to September younger adults between the ages of 18 and 34 years have had the highest rate of infection – more than triple any other age-group.
• The rate of new cases among males was more than five times higher in September when compared to the rates in July and August. The rate of new cases among females tripled in September when compared with July and August.
Highlights of the latest update are:
• The vast majority of COVID-19 cases in Simcoe Muskoka have recovered from the infection.
• Seniors 80 years of age and older have been disproportionally impacted by the pandemic, having both the highest incidence and case fatality rates; however, younger adults between 18 and 34 years had the highest rate of infection since June.
• The rate of COVID-19 infections in Simcoe Muskoka is highest among those that live in areas that are moderately or well resourced, as measured by the Ontario Marginalization Index. For more information on the impact of marginalization on COVID-19 infection in Simcoe Muskoka see the full reportand summary presentation.
• The rate of COVID-19 infections in Simcoe Muskoka is highest among those that live in areas with greater ethnic diversity when compared to areas with lower ethnic diversity as measured by the Ontario Marginalization Index. For more information on the impact of COVID-19 infections in culturally diverse areas of Simcoe Muskoka see the full report and summary presentation.
• There are outbreaks in long-term care facilities and retirement home in our area. See the list of current institutional outbreaks for more details. 
Other information:
Estimating Local COVID-19 Transmission
Tables of Case Counts by Age, Status & Transmission
Epidemic Curve by Date of Symptom Onset
Actions individuals can take everyday to protect themselves and others include:
• Stay home as much as possible (this applies to people who have not travelled outside of the country or who are not self-isolating with symptoms of COVID-19 and must stay at home.
• Practise physical distancing by keeping two metres between you and another person, unless they are members of your household.
• Wash your hands with soap and water for at least 15 seconds or use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer.
If you think you have COVID-19 symptoms or have been in close contact with someone who has it, use the self-assessment tool to help determine how to seek further care.
If you need immediate medical attention you should call 911 and tell them your symptoms and if you have travelled.
The Simcoe Muskoka District Health Unit used a simulation model developed by the University of Toronto to help us understand the possible impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic in our area. Please see the linked presentation for more details.
In summary, the results suggest:
• Intense physical distancing, or moderate physical distancing with increased case finding and isolation, is the best way to reduce the number of COVID-19 cases.
• Without physical distancing being applied for at least 12 of the next 24 months, it is projected that Ontario would not have enough hospital ICU beds.
• Applying physical distancing in a repeated way could prevent the health care system from being overwhelmed and allow mental health and economic breaks for everyone.
A repeated cycle of physical distancing would lift physical distancing rules to allow people to return to a more ‘normal’ life and then restore physical distancing rules as cases start to re-appear.

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