BARRIE, ONT. -- COVID-19 case counts in Simcoe Muskoka are on a downward trend, as the health unit logs 244 infections for the week, compared with 443 the week prior.

On Friday, the health unit lists 57 new COVID-19 infections in the region. 

"It's the fourth straight week with a decreasing case count, so it's very, very encouraging," said Simcoe Muskoka's associate medical officer of health, Dr. Colin Lee.

But while case counts decrease, the number of deaths continues to increase.

The Simcoe Muskoka District Health Unit says a Simcoe County man between 65 and 79 died after contracting the virus. He is the 12th Simcoe County resident to die with COVID-19 this month.

Since the start of 2021, nearly 160 individuals have lost their lives after becoming infected. In all, 239 Simcoe Muskoka residents died with COVID-19 since the pandemic started.

There are currently 33 people battling the deadly disease in regional hospitals, most at Royal Victoria Regional Health Centre in Barrie.

The current stay-at-home order is attributed to slowing the spread of the virus. On Thursday, the province extended lockdown restrictions for another two weeks until at least June 2.

Additionally, vaccines are going into more arms of residents as the province makes shots available to more groups.

To date, 38 per cent of Simcoe Muskoka has received the first dose of the vaccine.

"With every person being immunized, there's less of a chance that the virus with find someone to infect, and that's a dead-end, and that's that," Dr. Lee said.

Full details on the Simcoe Muskoka vaccination program are available here, including who is eligible, how to book and where clinics are located.