BARRIE, ONT. -- Daily COVID-19 case counts continue to drop across the region and Ontario as concerns over the contagious Delta variant first detected in India remain high.

On Thursday, the Simcoe Muskoka District Health Unit logged 12 newly reported infections in the past 24 hours. However, the health unit also confirmed three more cases of the Delta B.1.617.2 variant of concern, bringing the region's total Delta case count to 18.

As health officials push to get more shots into arms, Stevenson Memorial Hospital's chief of staff, Dr. Barry Nathanson, says while many residents have received their first dose of a vaccine, it's not enough to relax.

"Data has shown that we don't have excellent protection between the first and second shots," says Dr. Nathanson. "Only after the second shot do we have that kind of protection that can allow us to let our guard down."

The province added Simcoe Muskoka to the hot spot list for the Delta variant, accelerating second doses for adults who had their first before May 30.

While many await their chance to roll up their sleeves for the second time, Dr. Nathanson says evidence shows emerging concerns for increased morbidity associated with the variant and believes it could pose a danger if we're not careful.

"As long as we maintain our non-pharmacological interventions, such as distancing and mask-wearing, etcetera, the Delta variant should be a modest or moderate threat," he adds.

"But because of the principals of geometric multiplication, if the transmissibility were to increase, and if we weren't to be careful, then this could take off pretty quickly," Dr. Nathanson concludes.