With 16 positive COVID-19 cases since New Year's Eve in the Algoma district, public officials are calling on the community to bunker down to prevent further spread. (Christian D'Avino/CTV News)

Officials in Sault Ste. Marie are calling for an increased focus on adhering to pandemic-related restrictions and recommendations, as COVID cases throughout Algoma continue to spike.

Algoma Public Health confirmed 11 positive tests on Monday evening, a fact it attributes directly to holiday travel.

"We were definitely prepared for an increase in cases following the holidays," said Dr. Jennifer Loo, associate medical officer of health. "Despite public health recommendations and the rules of the shutdown, we knew people would be travelling outside Algoma and we are seeing the effects of that with these recent cases."

As of Monday, the total active cases for the Algoma region were at 28. including an outbreak at a long-term care facility, Loo said it's been one of the biggest tests the region has faced since the pandemic began.

Expected an increase

"It's all of their contacts, as well," she said. "It's the families they live with, it's the people they've been in contact with, and we also need to send out many of our nurses and health authorities to monitor those people."

Mayor Christian Provenzano said he also expected an increase in positive tests following the holiday season. With both he and Algoma Public Health anticipating more this week, he said it's crucial the community regains its focus.

"It's been a frustrating year and we are coming near the end of it," he said. "But it's going to be a very difficult end unless we all start to really, clearly adhere to the public health advice."

Algoma Public Health is expecting word on when the region might receive its first vaccines sometime soon.

But Provenzano said in the meantime, there's plenty the community can do to stay safe.

"As we wait for the vaccine to get to Sault Ste. Marie, it's certainly important that we focus on doing what we can do and what's in our control," he said. "Stay home, limit the spread, just as this community has done so far."

Algoma Public Health is also recommending people stay home and stay vigilant, long past the end-of-lockdown date in the North on Jan. 9.