BARRIE, ONT. -- Hospitalizations and COVID-19 infection rates are trending down in Simcoe Muskoka, leading health experts to believe the restrictions are working.

"We have seen a combination of a bit of the flattening of the curve," said Royal Victoria Regional Health Centre's (RVH) chief of staff, Dr. Jeffrey Tyberg.

The Barrie hospital has admitted about 200 transfers from overburdened GTA hospitals. To date, 68 patients have died, including five since Monday.

Dr. Tyberg said RVH expanded its ICU to free up space in the hospital to accept more patients. "To care for both COVID patients who are local or regional COVID patients, we might take from the GTA and our regular patients. We're still seeing 200 patients a day in the emergency department."

Hospitalizations of infected patients across the region are down about 30 per cent so far this week. RVH is currently treating 34 patients with COVID-19 - 12 are in the intensive care unit.

South Georgian Bay Ontario Health Team's Dr. Harry O'​Halloran said the vaccine supply is critical.

Dr. O'Halloran is leading a team of doctors, nurses and paramedics in the Collingwood area, who administered more than 14,000 vaccine doses to residents in the past two months in the form of drive-thru clinics. The team also cares for patients in their homes with oxygen saturation monitors.

Contact tracing confirmed COVID-19 cases is challenging, according to Dr. O'Halloran. "My patients who have had COVID, they're not sure where they got it. And that's the hard thing with this disease. They're not sure if they got it at a pharmacy or a grocery store."

The province opened the vaccine eligibility to teachers, firefighters and police. Stevenson Memorial Hospital's chief of staff, Dr. Barry Nathanson, said now it's important to ensure health care workers are adequately protected.

"If they're dealing with high-risk patients who may carry and therefore transmit the illness of COVID-19, those folks should be given their second vaccine in a more timely manner."

Meanwhile, the region is waiting on more vaccine supply as pharmacies run dry and immunization clinics wait on shipments.