The region’s medical officer of health has issued two new orders to the people of Simcoe Muskoka to allow health inspectors more authority to enforce self-isolation and screening rules.
Dr. Charles Gardner said his two latest orders are meant to “add protection to the community.”
As medical officer of health for Simcoe Muskoka District Health Unit, Gardner has the ability to issue orders under the Health Protection and Promotion Act.
Both of these orders exist in a similar form provincially, but Gardner said a local order will allow for more local enforcement.
“It’s a precautionary augmentation to what’s already in place,” said Gardner.
One of his orders, issued March 8, require active screening for all workers who are providing care and service to seniors and other populations at higher risk of hospitalization and/or death from COVID-19.
“This is meant to be more protective of patients and residents receiving care who are more vulnerable,” said Gardner.
The order applies to anyone providing service in a long-term care home, at a patient or client’s home, in a retirement home, any supported group living residence and any private residence where the individual is 60 years of age or older and/or has a chronic medical condition, and/or the person is immuno-compromised.
Gardner has ordered that all individuals providing the above services be screened daily before entering the vulnerable setting. The order also lays out requirements for personal protective equipment, minimizing the number of times there is more than one worker per vehicle, and excluding employees from work in vulnerable settings if any signs of COVID-19 develop.
The second order requires anyone who is a close contact or a household member of a person who might have, or does have COVID-19 to self-isolate.
The order defines a close contact as anyone who, in the last 14 days, has lived with or in the same household with a person infected with COVID-19, been within two metres of a COVID-19 case for 15 minutes even if both people were wearing masks, been in contact with a COVID case when not wearing a mask and eye protection for even less than 15 minutes, and anyone who has been in close physical contact (hugging or kissing) with a person infectious with COVID-19 for any duration of time.
Those identified as close contacts are required to self-isolate immediately by remaining in your home and not going outside unless on a private balcony or in an enclosed yard. Those sharing with roommates are supposed to keep to their room. No visitors are permitted.
You are required to isolate for 14 days even with a negative test or no symptoms. Those who develop symptoms or confirm they have COVID-19 with a positive test must isolate for ten more days from the day of the symptom or positive test.
Gardner also noted during a media briefing today that he would be sending a “strengthened” letter of instruction to businesses and workplaces in Simcoe County, Muskoka, Barrie and Orillia, reiterating employment standards for screening employees, sanitation of the workplace, maintaining physical distancing between employees, and wearing masks indoors.
“This is meant to address the work environment to keep work environments safe, considering that more recently, that’s where we’ve been seeing outbreaks happening,” said Gardner.The updated letter hasn’t been posted to the health unit website yet, but the last version was sent out on Dec. 15, 2020 and is available here.