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Top doc says masks here to stay through 2021

Masks will be necessary COVID-19 precautions until a vaccine is distributed to the masses, says Dr. Charles Gardner

You might want to expand your homemade mask collection, it will likely have to last you to 2022. 

Dr. Charles Gardner, medical officer of health for Simcoe Muskoka District Health Unit, said he can see the need for universal masking until COVID-19 is gone. 

“Given the arguments we’ve raised for this, this is probably going to remain in place until we have herd immunity with a vaccine and an end to the pandemic,” said Gardner during a media briefing on July 13. “It will be a year-and-a-half or more.” 

The doctor has issued an order to all businesses and organizations in Simcoe County and Muskoka District mandating they have a policy in place requiring everyone indoors in public spaces wear a mask. 

There are exemptions for young children, people with medical conditions, and for religious reasons. 

The order takes effect today, and while establishments aren’t expected to toss customers out for not wearing masks, a business may deny entry to people not wearing masks. 

Enforcement is more educational at this point, according to Gardner. Though fines are possible if the health unit deems them necessary. 

“We know from the research, to achieve what we want to achieve, we don’t need perfect compliance,” said Gardner. “We’re looking for 80 or more per cent compliance to be effective in flattening the curve.” 

Simcoe Muskoka District Health Unit logged seven new COVID-19 cases in the region last week, which is the lowest weekly increase reported by the health unit since the pandemic began. 

Three weeks ago, the health unit reported 40 new cases. 

“This is an excellent trajectory at this time,” said Gardner, noting the last death reported associated with COVID-19 in the region was May 16. 

“There are certainly fewer cases,” said Gardner. “We ‘ve shifted demographically from something that was affecting a very large number of seniors … particularly in long-term care facilities … and is now affecting work environments and people in the community.” 

Of the 614 cases reported by Simcoe Muskoka District Health Unit, 91 per cent of the cases have recovered. There are 19 active cases in Simcoe County, and though four people are hospitalized in the region, none are in intensive care. 

Gardner said adding mask-wearing to the list of COVID-19 prevention strategies is important at this time as more businesses and activities reopen for phase three of Ontario’s reopening plan. 

“This kind of intervention works best early on when you have a low degree of transmission rather than late when you have a lot of transmission happening,” said Gardner. 

His mask order was issued under the authority granted to him by the Emergency Management and Civil Protection Act, which is activated by the province’s state of emergency declaration. 

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Erika Engel

About the Author: Erika Engel

Erika regularly covers all things news in Collingwood as a reporter and editor. She has 13 years of experience as a local journalist
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