BARRIE -- "The number of people who are in the Intensive Care Unit and on ventilators has increased over the past week," says Dr. Sohail Gandhi, who says it's troubling to see infections leading to serious illness is on the rise in Simcoe Muskoka.

"And we are seeing, frankly, a surge of cases of people who are in hospital who are between the 30 and 50-year group," he says.

According to Dr. Gandhi, patients infected with the more contagious COVID-19 variant strains are getting sick at a rate we haven't seen before in younger people.

There are currently 25 people hospitalized across Simcoe Muskoka, an increase of seven since Friday, and cases are up 20 per cent last week, with variants dominating the case count.

As the region rolls out vaccination for seniors and frontline workers, residents in Simcoe Muskoka over 70 can now book an appointment through the provincial system, though vaccine supply remains low across the province according to Dr. Gandhi, who says he has to tell patients he doesn't know when and how many more doses are coming in.

"We're in a situation where we have such a limited supply of vaccine," says Dr. Gandhi.

"You have to make certain choices, and you have to try and estimate who in your best medical judgement will be the ones to benefit the most from it and who are the least likely to get sick from COVID."

Dr. Gandhi says he understands the growing fatigue with the pandemic and frustration with the vaccine rollout and asks residents to continue doing the right thing to get this latest surge in cases under control.