Testing ramps up in Muskoka as local COVID cases increase
GRAVENHURST, ONT. -- Testing capacity for COVID-19 in Muskoka has more than doubled in the past month as the number of local cases approaches record levels.
There are currently six active cases in Bracebridge and Huntsville.
According to the District of Muskoka, an outbreak declared in late August has ended; a man over the age of 80 and a staff member had tested positive for the virus days apart.
Although roughly 5.5 per cent of all cases of COVID-19 in Simcoe Muskoka is from Muskoka, testing is ramping up as the number of cases has increased sharply in the past month, including seven in the first 15 days of September.
Muskoka resident Dean Bielinski was tested Wednesday from the comfort of his truck.
“Worried about the COVID,” said Bielinski. “I’ve got some ailments that I worry about that can make things worse for me.”
Bielinski is one of many residents concerned about infection rates rising in the community.
“I want to make sure I’m 100 per cent safe, and my family is safe as well.”
Muskoka Paramedic Services has been conducting tests through its pop-up mobile clinic this week in Muskoka. On Monday, paramedics tested more than 200 people in Huntsville.
On Wednesday, the clinic was set up in the parking lot outside the Graeme Murray Arena in Gravenhurst. About 50 people were tested in the first few hours.
“A larger town like Bracebridge or Huntsville, we would see about 200,” said Muskoka Paramedic Services Deputy Chief Stuart McKinnon.
“We found when there’s increased demand, whether it’s because of positive cases in the area or the need for long-term care visiting testing, we figured we were uniquely positioned to pop up in any municipality and run a drive-thru,” said McKinnon, who plans to have the clinic set up outside the assessment centre in Bracebridge Thursday.
Muskoka Algonquin Healthcare has been running the assessment centre outside its Bracebridge hospital since local family health care teams handed testing duties off to the local hospital.
The transition happened just as infection rates among those 18 to 34 started to climb across the region.
In Muskoka, cases in restaurants and The Pines Long-Term Care Home have resulted in more testing this month with fears infection levels could surpass records set during the height of the pandemic. There were a total of 11 confirmed cases in both April and June.
“I think the grown-ups are taking it seriously, but I don’t think the young people are,” said Muskoka resident Nola Holmes outside the Bracebridge assessment centre.
The hospital’s CEO, Natalie Bubela, said the clinic could test roughly 100 people per day, Monday to Friday, from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.
“It is concerning. I think one of the things we have to look at is the demographics that are being impacted at this point. It is a younger cohort of people,” said Bubela.
According to the Simcoe Muskoka District Health Unit, there have been 42 confirmed cases in Muskoka, and one person, a Muskoka Lakes man in his 80s, who died after becoming infected.