WINGHAM, ONT. -- There were 36 new cases of COVID-19 in Huron, Perth, Grey and Bruce Counties over the weekend. A surge unseen during the pandemic, so far.

“As the medical officer of health for Grey-Bruce, I’m very concerned,” says Dr. Ian Arra.

Following months with no active COVID-19 cases, Midwestern Ontario is seeing double-digit increases on most days now, pushing Huron-Perth up to the orange 'restrict' category and Grey-Bruce into yellow 'protect' under provincial guidelines.

“We need to be happy with the numbers we’ve had to this point, but we can’t rest on our laurels. We need to buckle down,” says Huron County Warden Jim Ginn.

Fuelled by an outbreak at a Stratford retirement home, an outbreak among the Amish and Mennonite communities, and now extensive community spread, COVID-19 has now touched every corner of the four counties, with more cases on the way.

“I have no doubt in my mind, there are more cases out there we did not diagnose. The evidence from a recent study showed that for each case there are two or three cases that were not identified,” says Arra.

In Grey-Bruce, there are no school, hospital, or even workplace outbreaks. There have been cases associated with all three, but no spread. Arra attributes that to strict hand-washing, distancing and mask-wearing protocols.

He contends if we apply the same standards outside of those three locations, the region will make it through this. But, if people don’t follow the new guidelines, they’ll have what’s happening now, over 280 high-risk contacts for 53 active cases.

“We want to keep the contact tracing manageable for the health unit, and we can do it. We just have to accept the fact, and be tough,” says Kincardine Mayor Anne Eadie, whose town has 10 of Grey-Bruce’s 53 active cases.