BARRIE, ONT. -- The Simcoe Muskoka health unit logged 23 new COVID-19 cases since Friday and two virus-related deaths.

The health unit says two Simcoe County residents died after contracting the virus. They are the second and third deaths reported this month. In May, 18 residents lost their lives after becoming infected, and in April, there were 25 deaths.

To date, the region has had 248 COVID-19 deaths.

There are currently 144 active infections, including 16 hospitalizations.

VACCINATIONS

Over 482,550 doses of a COVID-19 vaccine have been given to Simcoe Muskoka residents, including those administered by local pharmacies.

The health unit reports 383,223 residents (63 per cent) have had their first shot, while 99,359 (16 per cent) are fully vaccinated.

Those numbers break down to show 74 per cent of adults have had at least one dose, while more than half of local children 12 to 17 have had their first vaccine.

Ontario accelerated second doses for anyone living in Simcoe Muskoka after adding the region to the province's list of hot spots.

Starting Monday, residents who had their first dose of an mRNA vaccine on or before May 9 can book or reschedule their second shot at a shortened interval.

VARIANTS

Ontario added Simcoe Muskoka to its list of hot spots for the Delta variant late last week.

On Monday, the Simcoe Muskoka health unit reports 20 cases are confirmed to be the Delta, B.1.617.2 strain, two more than last reported.

The region's medical officer of health said the Delta variant was about 50 percent more contagious, noting a second dose of the vaccine is the best way to protect against it.

Still, public health said that while more contagious, transmission of the Delta variant appears to be under control.

"For the last three weeks, it's been fairly stable, so it hasn't taken off. It isn't going at an accelerated speed," said Dr. Colin Lee on Friday.

The UK B.1.1.7 remains the dominant variant in Simcoe Muskoka, with nearly 4,000 cases.

The region has had a total of 4,856 variant cases confirmed to date, with another 669 unidentified infections that screened positive for a variant.

Health officials believe the Delta variant will become the dominant strain of COVID-19 in the coming weeks, even months.

ONTARIO COVID-19 CASES

The province reported 270 new infections on Monday, its lowest case count since Sept. 15, 2020. Most of the new COVID-19 cases were recorded in Toronto (47), Waterloo (44) and Peel Region (42).

According to Ontario's epidemiology report, another 136 Delta variant cases were identified for a total of 887 lab-confirmed cases.

The province said more than 2.9 million Ontarians are considered immunized.