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Region's top doc orders stricter health and safety protocols for businesses

BARRIE -- "It is about workers; it is not about transmission to customers," says Dr. Charles Gardner, who is sending a message to businesses across Simcoe Muskoka.

Starting Monday, the health unit will be ordering businesses across the region to implement more stringent health and safety protocols, including mandatory screening of employees and allowing staff to work remotely if possible.

"We've seen lapses that are a common theme often it is people really letting down their guard in the lunchroom, or not consistently using face coverings or being just too close to each other," says Dr. Charles Gardner, Medical Officer of Health with the Simcoe Muskoka District Health Unit.

The health unit is seeing a surge in cases - including 30 new infections on Thursday - resulting in school and workplace outbreaks.

"We've seen that kind interaction happen between the workplace, back into the people's homes with large numbers of people being affected and then the potential to spill over into schools," says Gardner.

The health unit is stressing; this is a legal request to ensure the entire community's health and safety, and if businesses don't follow the education model set forth, fines are an option.

Health officials fear the virus is more prevalent now than at any point in the pandemic; as the community grows tired of wearing masks, physical distancing, and continue to expand social interactions beyond the household.

"If we don't practice those disciplines, then we're really going to be in the same situation as south of the border," says Dr. Michael Lisi, Chief of Staff with the Collingwood General and Marine Hospital.

"We're going to run into big trouble if we don't follow some of those basics."

The concern is more people will hold large gatherings during the holidays, with the health unit linking 50 positive cases to Thanksgiving get-togethers last month.

"All it is going to take is for one person around that table to be an asymptomatic case of COVID to potentially infect multiple others," says Lisi.

"The best gift you can give your family and friends for Christmas is not putting their lives or health at risk. Just stick to your household."

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