BARRIE, ONT. -- Simcoe Muskoka added 49 new COVID-19 cases Wednesday, for a total of 232 so far this week.

The region also had another virus-related death reported by Georgian Bay General Hospital. The Midland facility is battling an outbreak of the virus that has infected 26 staff members and 23 patients.

Simcoe Muskoka's health unit lists 614 active cases across the region, including 22 hospitalizations.

The health unit says about half of all positive cases in December were close contacts with an infected person, while about 20 per cent were community-acquired with no known source.

The region's top doc, Dr. Charles Gardner, has said contact tracing has been challenging as more people venture out of the home.

Officials say the lockdown that takes effect on Saturday should slow the spread, helping to get cases under control.

"The pandemic is growing in Simcoe Muskoka," Gardner said Monday. "People are at higher risk, and we have the potential for more hospital admissions, more very serious illness, potential for more outbreaks."

To date, Simcoe Muskoka has logged 3,159 positive cases. Of those, 2,469 have recovered.

Four seniors' homes are listed with COVID-19 outbreaks, Coleman Care Centre in Barrie, Kingsmere Retirement Living in Alliston, Raglan Village in Collingwood and Trillium Manor in Orillia. The outbreaks at Bradford Valley Care Community and Villa Retirement Lodge in Midland were declared over this week.

According to a spokesperson, Penetanguishene's Central North Correctional Centre is still working to contain an outbreak there that has infected four staff members and 19 inmates.

On Tuesday, a Barrie-based personal support worker made history, becoming the first person in the region to be immunized against the highly contagious disease.

Gardner said the vaccine's arrival is "a critical step for us to be able to bring this pandemic under control."

The vaccine will be available to the general public sometime later in 2021.

Meanwhile, Ontario expects the newly approved Moderna vaccine by the end of the month.

Premier Doug Ford said the new vaccine, which was approved by Health Canada on Wednesday, is a "'game-changer."

A spokeswoman for Ontario's health minister said the province expects to receive the doses next week, and they will first be taken to long-term care homes.

She said the province is working with public health units on a plan to start administering the shots in long-term care facilities during the first week of January.

Ford said the Moderna vaccine could be more easily transported than the Pfizer-BioNtech dose -- the only other immunization approved by Health Canada -- which is why it will be taken to long-term care homes first.

The premier said other priority groups, including Indigenous communities and residents of retirement homes, would soon receive the Moderna vaccine.