The Simcoe Muskoka District Health Unit’s medical officer of health, Charles Gardner, says people should be “aware and informed, not alarmed” when it comes to the novel coronavirus.

In a phone interview with Global News Monday, Gardner said he thinks the risk to residents regarding COVID-19 is “about to change.”

“I look at the province, and the province is going through exponential growth in its case,” Gardner said. “The potential — I think it’s on the cusp, and people need to regard it as such.”

The local medical officer of health is recommending that dine-in restaurants and bars close or stop in-person delivery to limit the potential spread of COVID-19.

“I recognize that these are difficult measures for our local businesses, but these are difficult times and avoiding close interactions with others helps reduce the spread of illness,” Gardner said in a statement Monday evening.

“We are asking people to practice social distancing, which means staying at least two metres distance from anyone who is coughing or sneezing — that’s difficult to do in restaurants and bars, social places where people are physically in close proximity.”

Gardner’s recommendations align with those of Ontario’s chief medical officer of health, David Williams, who urged restaurants and bars to close or maintain takeout operations only. Williams also urged residents to cancel gatherings of 50 people or more.

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