The number of confirmed COVID-19 variant cases in Simcoe Muskoka nearly tripled in the past 24 hours, jumping from 19 to 51 on Tuesday.

The Simcoe Muskoka District Health Unit (SMDHU) reports another 94 patients are waiting on a second test to confirm whether they too are infected with the variant.

Health officials grow increasingly concerned, saying the U.K. variant is "50 per cent more contagious" and "it's able to find little holes in our armour," according to Dr. Colin Lee, SMDHU associate medical officer of health said Friday.  Public health says the best protection is to stay home, socially distance and wash your hands often.

Meanwhile, SMDHU posted 36 new COVID-19 cases and five deaths today - three residents at Roberta Place long-term care home in Barrie, a patient at Waypoint Centre in Penetanguishene, and a patient at Southlake Hospital are the latest to die with COVID-19, bringing the region's death count to 155.

According to the health unit, 84 residents died from COVID-19 in January, four-times higher than the number of deaths reported in December.

Institutional Outbreaks

The Simcoe Muskoka health unit lists 13 institutional outbreaks, including nine seniors' homes, two hospitals and one childcare centre.

The outbreak in the Kempenfelt Court unit at IOOF seniors' home in Barrie has been declared over by the health unit.

Outbreaks continue at Trillium Manor in Orillia, where at least 35 people are infected, Bradford Valley Care Community, where 13 residents are infected, Waypoint Centre with at least 17 infections.

Royal Victoria Regional Health Centre in Barrie has outbreaks in two units, the Transitional Care Unit and the Specialized Seniors Care. The hospital reports eight patients and 12 staff are infected within the two units, while three patients have died.  The health unit declared the outbreak in the Integrated Stroke and Rehabilitation Unit over on Tuesday.

Other outbreaks include Grove Park Home, Amica Little Lake, Mill Creek Care Centre, all in Barrie, The Pines Long-Term Care Residence in Bracebridge, Kingsmere Retirement Living in Alliston, Muskoka Shores Care Community in Gravenhurst. 

The devastating outbreak at Roberta Place long-term care home continues to ravage the Barrie facility, with 63 deaths reported Monday and over 225 infections.

Vaccinations

The health unit reports nearly 90 per cent of long-term care home residents and 62 per cent of retirement home residents have received their first doses of the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine.

In addition, about half of the region's long-term care staff, essential caregivers and hospital employees and physicians also rolled up their sleeves to be immunized.

Many are now waiting for their second dose, which needs to be given 21 to 42 days after the first.