The region's health unit is urging more caution as COVID-19 cases increase in Simcoe-Muskoka.
The Simcoe Muskoka District Health Unit has escalated its "community risk" rating from moderate to "high" based on a week-over-week assessment of indicators like case counts, hospitalizations and capacity of local hospitals.
During the week of Nov. 27 to Dec. 3, there were 221 COVID cases confirmed in the region, which is up by 64 cases from the week of Nov. 20 to 26. There have been 113 cases confirmed this week so far, but reporting is deleted.
The latest update, which includes information collected by the health unit since Dec. 1, shows 227 more cases confirmed, 47 people in the hospital with COVID-19 and six more deaths.
Of the last 20 deaths reported, 14 were seniors at least 70 years old. The Simcoe Muskoka District Health Unit notes the rate of death is five times higher among unvaccinated or partially vaccinated adults aged 60 years or older than it is for those with at least one booster dose.
There were 41 deaths reported in October, 33 in November, and two so far in December.
Of the 652 deaths reported by the health unit since March 2020, 542 were COVID-19-related, 100 deaths were not related to COVID-19 but the person tested positive, and for 10 of them, the cause of death is unknown or pending.
By hospitalization date, there were 16 COVID patients admitted during the week of Nov. 27 to Dec. 3 and 19 admitted during the week of Nov. 20 to 26.
There are 10 active outbreaks in the region, including seven at institutional settings like hospitals or long-term care homes, and three at congregate settings like group homes and shelters. This is a decrease from 24 outbreaks on Nov. 17.
Since the start of the pandemic, the local health unit has confirmed 54,294 cases of COVID-19, with 53,286 of those cases recovered and 652 cases ending in death.
About 25 per cent of Simcoe-Muskoka residents aged 12 or older are fully vaccinated and have had a booster dose within the last six months. Another 31 per cent is fully vaccinated and has had a booster dose more than six months ago, and more than 31 per cent of the population has had the primary series without booster doses. Eleven per cent of the population aged 12 and above is unvaccinated.
Wastewater monitoring in Barrie shows a decrease in COVID virus DNA in those communities.
Monitoring in Orillia, Penetanguishene, Midland, Bracebridge and Collingwood show COVID-19 virus DNA as present in each of the communities, but there's been no increase or decrease noted in the last week.
Anyone who has not yet received their COVID-19 vaccination or booster doses is encouraged to do so as soon as they are eligible. Information about eligibility and clinic locations is available at smdhu.org/GetVaccinated.
The health unit is advising people use layers of protection for themselves and those around them, this can include wearing a mask and not visiting crowded spaces. But those measures are voluntary. As always, the health unit strongly urges people not to leave home if they are sick and experiencing symptoms of illness.