BARRIE, ONT. -- Daily COVID-19 case counts continue to drop to numbers not seen in several months, prompting the past president of the Ontario Medical Association (OMA) to support the province's decision to enter its first phase of reopening on Friday, three days earlier than expected.

"The numbers certainly justify it," says OMA past president Dr. Sohail Gandhi.

The OMA former president says the number of COVID-19-positive patients in intensive care has had a "significant decline" to under 500.

Gandhi adds that of those 500 patients, 30 are from Manitoba, "because we're in a position now where we can help other provinces who are struggling more than we are."

As the province slowly reopens, the doctors' main concerns are focussed primarily on the other impacts of the pandemic.

Gandhi believes more "forward-thinking" is needed, and the focus should pivot towards mental health and the struggling small businesses.

"Now is the time to be proactive," he says. "We really need to put a focus on the health of our small businesses, which are the engines of the Canadian economy because if our economy is good, then we can provide better healthcare to the population."

Starting Friday, the province will allow non-essential businesses to reopen with a capacity limit on customers.

The complete list of what will be permitted in Step 1 of Ontario's Roadmap to Reopening is available here.

Public health in Simcoe Muskoka health unit logged 54 new COVID-19 cases over the weekend.