The Grey Bruce Health Unit is scrambling to track down potentially hundreds of people who may have been in close contact with more than 70 new positive COVID-19 cases that were recently confirmed across the region. 

In a statement released Wednesday, the public health unit said it is declaring a "critical threshold" of cases in the region and asked all residents to "consider themselves a carrier for the next 48 hours" while staff attempt to do contact tracing.

Public health officials say over 70 new cases were detected over the past 36 hours and the sources have transmission were "individuals not following lockdown" rules by "visiting others when symptomatic." The health unit also says some cases have been traced back to "bush parties" attended by high school aged youth.

"The issue is worsened by individuals being untruthful to public health contact tracing and case management inquiries," public health officials said in the statement.

"If we do not implement drastic measures at this juncture, the pandemic will spiral out of control."

The public health unit said increasing case numbers has pushed contact tracing and case management capacity "to its limit."

"Public health will redeploy staff from other programs, including the vaccine program and helpline, in order to support contact tracing and case management," the statement continued.

The health unit also noted that a large vaccine clinic planned for Saturday will not be held but vaccine clinics will continue for the rest of this week.

"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," the statement read.

"It may take us 2-3 days to reach everyone who is a case and complete managing their contacts... It is a priority that everyone stay at home except for essential travel."

The mayor of the Town of The Blue Mountains said it is disappointing that people in the region are becoming careless and misleading health officials when they do contact tracing.

"This is the way COVID works. When you have people that don't follow instructions and mix with other people and have parties and gatherings, one person can infect multiple," Mayor Alar Soever told CP24 Thursday evening.

Dr. Ian Arra, the medical officer of health for Grey-Bruce, said drastic measures were needed to ensure that everybody in the region will behave to protect themselves and others from getting the disease.

"It's a concept that we use here during the management of the pandemic locally. So, it's not everybody's quarantined. Rather, everybody needs to take it very seriously, to regain the position," Arra told CP24 Thursday evening.

While most had been following public health measures throughout the pandemic, the doctor said the combination of COVID-19 fatigue and the more transmissible and deadly variants are playing a role in the increase of transmission that they are seeing.

"It's not the fact that there are younger adults who are causing this rather than just being part of the transmission," he said.

"Nevertheless, I do believe our community can turn around this, and we can have full control over it again."