SUDBURY -- With news of 12 positive COVID-19 cases confirmed in Greater Sudbury in recent days, the medical officer of health says there's reason to hope the latest outbreak can be contained.

Dr. Penny Sutcliffe, of Public Health Sudbury & Districts, said there is a connection to the most recent cluster. Eight new cases were reported Monday evening, with seven of those cases being people under the age of 20.

"In fact, seven of the eight cases, individuals, who were reported have exposures in common," Sutcliffe said. "So what I can say about that is there is a cluster that in fact involves about 10 people in total. And the good news about that is we've been able to identify the individuals to hopefully help (stop) the spread.

"We still have investigations and testing ongoing, but hopefully this is the end of it," the medical officer of health said.

With the recent surge of cases, after seeing no cases for a month, some residents in the city say they aren't surprised.

"I always felt like it was going to spike," said former Sudbury resident Deborah Mariner. "We're going to have a second and third round of COVID it seems like."

Felt inevitable

"I kind of feel like during the holidays, Memorial Day and Canada Day, when they opened up the beaches and all the kids got out together, you don't know what they were exposed to. So I felt it was kind of inevitable and I still think that people should be very careful," said Mariner.

With the new cases showing up in younger people, some residents are drawing their own conclusions about why COVID is spreading among teenagers.

"I was a little bit discouraged, I thought we were doing really well here," said resident Wayne McDonald. "I'm afraid it's the partygoers that are causing the ... spike."

It's understandable that young people want to socialize, McDonald said, but it's not safe.

"You have to think of the people you're going to affect after the party," he said. "It's not the right thing to do. Wear your mask, wash your hands and maintain that six-foot (distance)."

But rather than partying, Sutcliffe said the new cases are travel-related within Ontario.

"So we really have to critically ask ourselves questions about where we travel to, when we travel, how are we interacting with people and staying home when we're unwell," she said.

Regionally, the Sudbury area entered Phase 3 reopening on July 17, allowing for bigger gatherings and more businesses to open.

"I think with Phase 1, 2 and then 3 a lot of people are kind of over it and socializing a bit more," said resident Jenn Ricker. "You can see it happening around the city, so I'm not surprised."

State of emergency

Mayor Brian Bigger released a statement Tuesday afternoon in response to the recent spike, confirming Sudbury will stay in the current state of emergency.

"Those who put themselves at risk of catching the virus also put others in the community at risk -- that's not acceptable," Bigger said. "This is irresponsible and I would please ask all residents of Greater Sudbury to take COVID-19 more seriously, and follow the guidelines that have been put in place to protect all of us," said Bigger.

Sutcliffe said the health unit is better prepared now thanks to more knowledge on processes, more information on the virus itself and with the guidance it has received from the province. However, she doesn't think that COVID-19 is over.

"I am hopeful that the numbers won't climb as it relates to this most recent cluster, as seven of the eight have some exposure in common," she said. "But I do expect -- I'd like to be wrong -- but I do expect there to be continued cases that we see. And this is because we are trying to put the brakes on COVID-19, but I don't think it's realistic to completely stop it," said Sutcliffe.

Officials are reminding people to wear face coverings, maintain a physical distance of six feet and continue to wash and sanitize your hands.