Business owners brace for the worst as COVID-19 cases surge, and health officials call the coming weeks critical to getting the virus under control.

"With the trajectory that it's heading, we could get into a situation where our hospital beds and ICU beds might be overwhelmed," said an associate medical officer of health, Dr. Colin Lee, with the Simcoe Muskoka District Health Unit.

The health unit emailed local businesses with new safety directions as the region enters the second wave.

Steve Loftus, with Innovative Automations, says that means there's a lot of work to be done. "Because we work as departments on some things, and as teams with people out of multiple departments on other projects, it's going to make it a little bit difficult. But we will develop a solution for that."

The company has already taken steps to protect its staff and limit the spread like creating an Amber Alert-like app for employees and reducing its student staff from 25 to five.

For the owners of Danny's Fish and Chips in Barrie, a second lockdown is constantly on their minds. "This is the kind of fear you live with when you're self-employed, small business every day," says Limoza Demiri.

With an uncertain future, Demiri says it's difficult to prepare. She has brought back 90 per cent of the staff, but can only afford three-hour shifts.

If another shut down does occur and the government doesn't offer support, Dimiri fears she will have to close the doors for good.

"There's no way we can survive. We're barely surviving being open," she says.