COVID-19 infection rates dip as hospitalizations rise in Simcoe Muskoka

Simcoe Muskoka health officials report a 30 per cent drop in confirmed COVID-19 cases over the past three weeks.

Past president of the Ontario Medical Association, Dr. Sohail Gandhi, says it's a sign of progress. "It's not quite what I'd like to see, but at least it's a step in the right direction."

Public health officials report 281 COVID-19 tests came back positive since Friday across Simcoe Muskoka.

There are currently 1,585 active infections in the region.

Still, Dr. Gandhi remains concerned about "the rationing of health care."

The health unit says there are 51 people in the hospital as of Monday fighting the virus. Of those, Royal Victoria Regional Health Centre in Barrie has 22 COVID-19 positive patients, seven on ventilators. It's unclear how many of these infected patients are transfers from overburdened GTA hospitals.

Dr. Gandhi says the fear is that Ontario hospitals would run out of ICU capacity, leaving health officials to decide who receives life-saving care beds and ventilators.

"That hasn't happened yet," he says. "I hope it doesn't and I'm starting to see a glimmer of hope that we may not get there based on this week's numbers."

In April, the virus claimed the lives of 23 Simcoe Muskoka residents. No new deaths were reported Monday, leaving the region's total COVID-19 death count at 225.

Active outbreaks continue at three local long-term care homes, Simcoe Manor in Beeton, Creedan Valley in Creemore and Muskoka Shores in Gravenhurst.

Eligible residents lined up outside the Barrie vaccination clinic on Sperling Drive Monday.

The health unit reports 32 per cent of Simcoe Muskoka residents have rolled up their sleeves to get the first shot of the COVID-19 vaccine.

As the region's hot spot, the Town of Bradford West Gwillimbury has pop-up vaccination clinics planned for this week, and more information on clinics is posted on its website. The town's infection rate remains at roughly 400 cases per 100,000 population, which is about double the more populated City of Barrie's rate.