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12 months later: A timeline of COVID-19 in Collingwood

It's been 12 months since the first case in the region, the first death in Ontario, and the official declaration of a pandemic, here's a look back at some of what happened in the last year
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The inspirational mural created by local artists during the COVID pandemic. Erika Engel/CollingwoodToday

It's been one year since COVID-19 reached Simcoe-Muskoka region, and Collingwood. 

In the early days the town, like the rest of the province was shut down, with more closures reported every day for weeks. People were making noise on their porches each evening in support of front line workers as everyone waited to see what would happen as the virus spread locally. 

In the first six months of the pandemic, the health unit reported 17 cases in Collingwood residents. Since September, the health unit has reported 127 Collingwood cases and two deaths. 

The town has been through three stages of the first reopening plan and has been through every colour of the current COVID-19 Response Plan except green. 

Public opinion has ranged from "we're all in this together," to "stay home to flatten the curve," to "no more lockdowns," and whatever else is said behind closed doors.

Businesses have struggled to survive, some not making it and others thriving. The town has wrestled with its desire to reinvigorate the tourist economy while official advice is to discourage travel between regions. 

Vaccination is now underway for priority groups, including seniors over the age of 84 years old. Some doses of AstraZeneca have arrived in the area and will be given to adults between 60 and 64 years old at one of two drive-thru clinics – one at the Collingwood Legion and one at Wasaga Beach Rec Plex. 

The COVID pandemic continues for Collingwood and beyond, but for now a look back at the last 12 months since the World Health Organization declared COVID-19 a global pandemic on March 11, 2020.

The information included in this timeline is based on reports provided by the Simcoe Muskoka District Health Unit. 

*****

March 

  • The first case in the Simcoe-Muskoka region is confirmed as a man from Barrie between 35 and 44 years old. The transmission was linked to travel in Germany and Spain. He was tested on March 9. The health unit confirmed 56 cases of COVID-19 and five deaths in March.
  • The first COVID-related death in the province is reported on March 19. The man died at Barrie’s Royal Victoria Regional Hospital on March 11, and his death was confirmed by the health unit on March 17. He was one of two brothers who died with the coronavirus, they were close contacts of each other and both died in Barrie within 10 days of each other. 
  • The first case in a Collingwood resident is confirmed March 18. It was a man between 45 and 64 years old, and was a travel-related case. 
  • A COVID-19 assessment tent was set up at the entrance to the Collingwood General and Marine Hospital. The assessment centre was moved to the Erie Street medical building and was switched to a drive-thru model on March 31. The tent remained at the entrance of the hospital for COVID-19 screening of patients. It is now at the Collingwood Legion and another similar drive-thru system has been set up at the Wasaga Beach Rec Plex. Both are operated by the Georgian Bay Family Health Team, and are also being used as vaccine clinics. 

April

  • The first COVID-19 outbreak at a long-term care facility is declared at Bradford Valley Care Community. There have been a total of 42 outbreaks at long-term care homes in Simcoe-Muskoka District, as well as 26 outbreaks at retirement homes and five at hospitals. There have been 719 cases and 144 deaths linked to the outbreaks. 
  • A Wasaga Beach man in his 70s died of COVID-19 while at Collingwood General and Marine Hospital. He died on April 4, but his death was reported by the health unit on April 6.

May

  • Ontario enters Stage 1 of the provincial reopening plan, which allows drive-in religious gatherings, reopening of some outdoor recreational amenities. Golf courses reopen, as do marinas, public boat launches and private parks and campgrounds. Some in-store shopping also resumed with new restrictions. Social gatherings limited to five people.
  • A woman in her 80s from Clearview Township died from COVID-19 at the Collingwood General and Marine Hospital. 

June 

  • Ontario enters Stage 2 of the reopening plan, allowing public gatherings up to 10 people, reopening restaurant patios, shopping malls, hair salons, places of worship, and pools. This is also when social circles of up to 10 people were introduced. By October the government asked people to limit to their own household again as the second wave hit. . 

July 

  • An order issued by Dr. Charles Gardner, medical officer of health for the region, requires everyone to wear masks while indoors in public spaces and places of business.
  • Most of Ontario enters Stage 3. Indoor gatherings are limited to 50 people, and outdoor gatherings can be up to 100 people with physical distancing. Indoor dining is allowed again, and gyms can reopen. Playgrounds are also reopened. There’s still no dancing, buffets, overnight children’s camps, or amusement parks. The provincial emergency order is also lifted with new legislation in place allowing emergency orders to remain for the year without the state of emergency.

August

  • Area school boards announce staggered starts for students returning to in-class lessons in September. 

September

  • The health unit confirmed the region’s first school-related case, a staff member at Twin Lakes Secondary School in Orillia. 
  • People are discouraged from social circles and urged to limit close contact to household members only.

October

  • Dr. Gardner issued an order for further enforcement of self-isolation rules stating anyone who has been diagnosed with COVID, has symptoms of COVID and is awaiting testing, and anyone who is a close contact of a person diagnosed with COVID must self-isolated at home for 10 days or until receiving a negative test result. 
  • A second wave hits Ontario and Simcoe Muskoka with more cases and a steeper increase than was seen in the first wave.

November

  • Dr. Gardner issues an order requiring long--term care and retirement homes to restrict all indoor visits to long-term care homes to one essential visitor at a time and suspend general visiting. 
  • This month Dr. Gardner also told municipalities to prohibit access to municipal recreation facilities by people from higher transmission areas. 
  • The region is put into the province’s yellow zone at the beginning of the month, then the orange zone on Nov. 23  as per the COVID-19 response colour-coded framework. By Dec. 14, the region entered the red zone, and since then has been in red or grey except during the province-wide shutdown. 

December 

  • Collingwood General and Marine Hospital announced it experienced a surge of inpatients over the weekend (Dec. 9), including six COVID patients, and opened its 18-bed field hospital at the Collingwood Legion, which it is using for patients awaiting a transfer to another facility and who have not tested positive for COVID. 
  • The vaccine arrives and inoculation begins in Barrie on Dec. 22 with a PSW working in a long-term care home. 
  • Simcoe Muskoka is in the red zone from Dec. 14 to the province-wide shutdown and stay-at-home order begins on Dec. 26.
  • Included in the province-wide shutdown are ski hills, sparking opposition from the industry and skiers who argued the outdoor activity could be done safely. Ski hills are not reopened in much of Ontario until February. 

January

  • The health unit reported the first death of a Collingwood resident with COVID-19. The woman, who was between 65 and 79 years old, died on Jan. 1, and her case was not linked to any outbreaks. 
  • Collingwood General and Marine Hospital is operating at above 100 per cent capacity and notes a rise in emergency visits with 96 on Jan. 4. According to the hospital, those visits are by people who are "much sicker" and require a greater number of admissions and inpatient beds than usual. 
  • An outbreak is declared at Roberta Place Long Term Care home in Barrie on Jan. 8. Soon after cases from the outbreak were confirmed to be the B.1.1.7 variant strain that originated from the UK. This was the first time a variant strain was detected in Simcoe Muskoka. There were 126 resident cases and 102 staff cases linked to the outbreak and 71 people died. 
  • All eligible residents living in long-term care homes in Simcoe Muskoka received their first dose of vaccine by Jan. 19.

Feburary

  • The province-wide shutdown and stay at home orders were lifted with Simcoe Muskoka landing in the red zone of the province’s colour-coded framework. One week later, the region went into grey-lockdown for seven days, then back into red zone.
  • The health unit launches its own online booking system and sets up 13 community vaccination clinics reserved for phase one priority groups identified in the provincial plan. 
  • An outbreak is declared at a Collingwood apartment building on Feb. 5 and later is linked to the B.1.1.7 (UK) variant strain. The outbreak was declared over on March 1. Twenty-five cases and one death are linked to the outbreak. This was the first time a variant strain had been confirmed in Collingwood.
  • The health unit reported a second Collingwood resident died. This time, a man between 65 and 79 years old whose case was linked to the apartment building outbreak.

March 2021

  • Vaccine clinics open across the region with the drive-thru testing centres in Collingwood and Wasaga Beach serving as the local sites. The vaccination rollout is limited by the supply given to the province. 
  • On March 10, the province announces it will send AstraZeneca vaccines to Simcoe Muskoka, adding to the Pfizer supply currently being administered. Dr. Gardner also said the health unit is expecting Moderna vaccines in the near future. 
  • Dr. Gardner issues two new orders for enforcement, requiring stricter rules for self isolating of close contacts and other household members of confirmed or presumed COVID cases, and requiring active screening for staff providing care to vulnerable populations. 
  • Simcoe Muskoka Disitrct Health Unit has now confirmed 6,592 cases of COVID-19 in Simcoe County and 250 in Muskoka. To date, 191 people have died, and 6,233 people have recovered.  

By the numbers

The following chart shows a breakdown of cases and deaths reported by the Simcoe Muskoka District Health Unit each month for the last year.

Figures include only those reported that month and are non-cumulative

Month Cases reported Deaths confirmed
March 56 6
April 221 14
May 190 16
June 131 0
July  60 1
August  54 0
September  190 2
October 505 11
November  742 3
December 1,498 19
January 1,840 98
February 1,021 20

 


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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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