BARRIE, ONT. -- With nearly 100 COVID-19 variant cases identified in York Region, the area's medical officer of health, Dr. Karim Kurji, answers questions on the health unit's measures to control the spread with the reopening of the economy just over a week away.

Q: York Region will remain under the stay-at-home order for another week, until Feb. 22.

Why is this important?

Dr. Kurji: I think this is very important to try and make sure our cases continue going down as they have been going.

As well, given that we have this variant of concern, I think it will be great if those could actually go down or at least the likelihood of them getting transmitted being reduced for this extra time.

Q: What is your biggest concern as the province slowly tries to reopen?

Dr. Kurji: The biggest concern is that we get it right; in that, we don't rush into reopening too fast because of the variants of concern.

So having said that, it is important that we that the revival of businesses, give them a bit more for breathing space, but we have to remember that we are in a precarious time just now, and therefore, I think our residents will be very much advised to stay at home, and only go out for essential visits.

Q: What colour zone do you believe the region will be in when it does reopen on Feb. 22?

Dr. Kurji: I believe we'll be in the red zone, given that our incidents levels right now permit us to go into the red zone. That having been said, the current red zone is a bit like the red plus zone that we used to have, given the fact that the province has tightened up on some of the restrictions.

Q: You've mentioned the variant. How prevalent are the variants in York Region right now?

Dr. Kurji: Unfortunately, our variant count has gone up to 99 now, with about 28 of those being the UK variant. However, 34 of them remain as active. The remainder have recovered. They are distributed among some 60 plus households, and they're scattered across the municipalities across all age groups.

Q: When it does come to those variants, are we in a race between the vaccine and those variants?

Dr. Kurji: What is happening in York Region is we have immunized all the residents of our long term care homes and the residents in retirement homes, and so we're starting to see a reduction in the number of outbreaks that are occurring, certainly in our long term care homes, and as we roll out the vaccines further and further, you know, once we get more of the vaccines, we hope that we will be able to at least reach those folks and hold the mortalities rates.