“If we do not implement drastic measures at this juncture, the pandemic will spiral out of control,” a message posted on the unit’s Facebook page Wednesday evening said.
“We have identified over 70 new confirmed cases across Grey Bruce in the last 36 hours with the potential to generate hundreds of additional close contacts.”
The public health department said the major driver in cases has been people not following Ontario’s lockdown restrictions. It was also reported people with COVID-19 symptoms attended social gatherings and high school-aged youth attending bush parties.
“The issue is worsened by individuals being untruthful to public health contact tracing and case management inquiries,” officials said.
Health unit staff reported they need to shut down their COVID-19 information line in order to free up resources to followup with contacts who may have been exposed. Also a large vaccine clinic scheduled for Saturday has been closed.
“As the result of the increasing case numbers, our contact tracing and case management capacity is being stretched to its limit,” the statement said.
“The vaccine clinics for the remainder of this week will continue, but consideration is being given to closing next week’s clinics in order to minimize the risk of people gathering as well as allowing public health staff to be redeployed.”
For the next two or three days as contact tracing continues, they urged residents to stay home except for essential reasons.
“Everyone across Grey Bruce needs to consider themselves a carrier for the next 48 hours until we reach all cases and their contacts,” officials said.
“If contacted by public health, be prudent in following any direction that is given.”
Global News contacted Ontario Health Minister Christine Elliott’s office Wednesday evening to ask if additional provincial resources would be deployed to assist the Grey Bruce Health Unit, but a response wasn’t received by the time of publication.
Historically Grey Bruce has been on the lower end of Ontario’s daily COVID-19 case counts.
According to Ontario government data, the highest number of new cases confirmed in the region during a single day was 21 (Nov. 20).
When cases across the province dropped in August, for instance, there were many days the health unit reported zero new confirmed new cases. Between the second and third waves in mid-February, the upper total of new confirmed cases hovered around five or six a day.
Of the total number of cases in Grey Bruce municipalities, Owen Sound has seen the highest amount.
The region, which public health staff estimated to be around 8,587-square kilometres and home to more than 161,000 people, is bordered by Lake Huron on the west, Georgian Bay on the east and the communities of South Bruce and Southgate on the south. Within its boundaries, it also includes the towns of Tobermory, Sauble Beach, Wiarton, Kincardine, Hanover, Dundalk, The Blue Mountains and Meaford.
— With files from Gabby Rodrigues