BRADFORD WEST GWILLIMBURY, ONT. -- Premier Doug Ford said the province would start some vaccinating people living in COVID-19 hot spots, including Bradford.

The risk of exposure to the virus is heightened, with the variants of concern, and now more young people are testing positive, along with essential workers who can't work from home.

"They come home to their families, and they don't realize they are bringing the coronavirus into their households, and it is troubling," said Bradford West Gwillimbury Mayor Rob Keffer.

Bradford resident Elaine Hermitt was shocked to hear the province flagged her town on Wednesday. "It's surprising because I wouldn't believe that this would be a hot spot."

Bradford has the highest incidence rate in Simcoe County, with 221 cases per 100,000 residents, nearly triple Barrie's rate.

The region's top doctor said 85 per cent of all COVID-19 cases in the past week were identified as variant strains, causing younger people to become seriously ill. Before the variants of concern, the virus affected mostly older residents, with seniors being the hardest hit.

Collingwood is reporting its worst spike since the pandemic began one year ago. Dr. Michael Lisi, chief of staff at Collingwood Marine and General Hospital, said the variants are a real threat. "With a huge influx of numbers, we could be facing significant troubles."

The town's cases per capita quadrupled in the past week from 29 to 121 cases per 100,000 residents.

Local hospitals are feeling the strain, with vaccination demand at an all-time high. Residents with chronic conditions who are at a higher risk of serious illness can book an appointment to be vaccinated online.

Ford said mobile teams would deliver vaccines in congregate settings, residential buildings, faith-based centres and large employers in hot spots. However, Bradford's mayor is waiting to find out when the health unit will begin vaccinating high-risk residents.