BARRIE, ONT. -- While relieved for many small business owners who were able to reopen after months of being closed, one of Simcoe Muskoka's top doctors is reminding the public to continue to follow public health guidelines at all times.

Dr. Colin Lee, the associate medical officer of health for the Simcoe Muskoka District Health Unit (SMDHU) says that he understands why many businesses saw long lines of customers but says we must stick to basics to prevent a surge in COVID-19 cases.

"What we will be watching for is everyone to follow the stage one rules and not overstep them," Lee says. "We do need to reopen gradually and prudently."

Lee's concern comes as many areas across the province see a rise in cases identified as the Delta variant, which is approximately 50 per cent more contagious than the already more contagious Alpha variant.

The SMDHU doctor says that he supports the province targeting second vaccination appointments to communities where the Delta variant is most prominent.

One of those areas is Peel Region, which Lee says can have an impact on Simcoe Muskoka.

"That affects us because if we can control the delta variant there when our residents go down there to work or to shop or for leisure, then they have less of a chance of bringing it back to us," Lee says. "So it's really important that we try to suppress any delta variant dominance in those areas."

Lee says the SMDHU has begun adding more second dose appointments over this week and expects the situation to improve over the coming month. Saying approximately 10 per cent are now fully immunized, Lee says he expects a jump in the number of available appointments as supply continues to increase.

However, personal care services remain closed under the province's Roadmap to Reopen plan. While many in the industry are calling for those restrictions to be lifted, Lee says health officials need more data.

"I really feel for them. Those hair salons, those personal care businesses have been hit I think the worst out of all the businesses," Lee says. "I urge their patience. I think the province is doing the right thing by waiting the minimum three weeks."

According to Lee, this was the seventh consecutive week the SMDHU reported a decline in cases, with approximately 120 new infections expected by week's end.