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'Significant' community outbreak declared in eastern Grey County

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Grey-Bruce’s medical officer of health says people are lying to public health investigators, which is helping to spread COVID-19.

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Dr. Ian Arra declared a “community outbreak” in eastern Grey County involving a COVID variant Thursday, a day after raising concerns about people not telling the truth, or the whole truth, to public health investigators.

So far, there are 21 confirmed cases and a “significant number” of probable cases and high-risk contacts related to this outbreak, the health unit said. This growing number of confirmed cases is from the last number of days, not from Thursday.

“This outbreak is widespread but is centered in the communities of Thornbury, Clarksburg and Meaford and spills into neighbouring Simcoe County,” Arra’s news release said.

“The sources of transmission are identified as individuals not following provincial emergency brake orders by visiting others when symptomatic as well as large social gatherings and ‘bush parties.'”

At the same time, a growing number of people aren’t being forthcoming with public health investigators, Arra said in an interview Thursday.

Arra said “most people” follow public health direction. “What’s alarming is the proportion of people who are not being forthcoming has been increasing, and has been increasing for a few months.”

With the latest outbreak, a large proportion involves young people who attended a bush party in eastern Grey County and were otherwise socializing after school hours. Separate socializing involving older people is also to blame, he said.

“Last year you’d find a person with two close contacts or family members. Now it is increasing numbers,” Arra said. There’s been a notable increase in attitude among some people COVID in the past two weeks, he said.

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“We’ve seen cases where flat outright, we’re not going to comply. We’re not going to comply. How are you going to make me?”

Police have been called in to enforce compliance but “you’re still feeling that the attitude that I’m not going to tell you everything. Like they wouldn’t answer the phone, for example.”

Some won’t get tested after experiencing COVID symptoms, he said. There have been cases where a youth’s parents told on their kids, saying to investigators they’re not being told everything.

Arra said he’s issued a “handful” of orders for individuals to comply with public health direction over the past few weeks.

Now the health unit is preparing to issue a class action order to further reinforce the need for confirmed cases to isolate and for close contacts to follow health unit direction, he said.

Previously, the health unit has written individual orders for people with confirmed cases who did not comply with the health unit’s direction. Arra said days are wasted in that scenario and any chance at early intervention are lost.

Now, the order will cover all confirmed cases the first day they’re identified. The fine is up to $5,000 per day if convicted.

The implications of this eastern Grey County outbreak reach beyond there.

High-risk contacts are from across Grey, Bruce and Simcoe counties, which adds urgency to Arra’s call Wednesday and Thursday for people to stay home for the next two to three days unless for an essential reason.

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