'This third wave is nothing like we've seen before and perhaps never wanted to imagine'
BARRIE, ONT. -- Eighty-nine COVID-19 cases were reported Wednesday across Simcoe Muskoka, plus three more virus-related deaths.
Public health says a man and woman over 80 and a woman between 45 and 64, all from Simcoe County, died from complications of the virus. Their deaths raise the number of lives lost to COVID-19 to 215.
So far this year, 144 Simcoe Muskoka residents lost their lives after becoming infected. In the first 14 days of April, 13 residents reportedly passed from COVID-19. In March, the health unit reported 12 individuals died. February marks the second deadliest month after 31 infected residents died. January holds the grim record of 88 virus-related deaths, most attributed to a devastating outbreak at Roberta Place, a long-term care home in Barrie.
There are currently 971 active infections in the region, including 42 hospitalizations.
Royal Victoria Regional Health Centre (RVH) in Barrie has opened its doors to patients from the GTA as hospitals to the south run out of room.
The hospital's president and CEO, Janice Skot, said it's a tipping point as more young people become infected with variants. "The pandemic is more than a year old now, but this third wave is nothing like we've seen before and perhaps never wanted to imagine."
Skot said the number of infected patients in the past month has surged to record levels. "We have 32 COVID-19 positive patients at RVH. Seven of those patients are in our intensive care unit, and six are on ventilators."
RVH is treating about 130 out-of-town patients from overwhelmed GTA hospitals. "Right now, we have 27 GTA patients in our hospital, and of those, eight are in our intensive care unit," Skot noted.
All non-emergency surgeries and procedures have been paused to make room for incoming patients, adding to an already backlogged system.
Infection rates in Simcoe Muskoka doubled from last month, with an average of about 90 cases daily in recent days.
The region's medical officer of health says 96 per cent of cases so far this week have been identified as variants of concern.
To date, 1,501 cases tested positive for the UK B.1.1.7 variant. Eighteen cases were confirmed to be the P.1 variant from Brazil, and two cases were identified as the B.1.351 from South Africa. There is an additional 463 cases that screened positive for a variant strain.
According to the health unit, nearly 20 per cent of Simcoe Muskoka residents have had their first vaccine dose. Recent National Advisory Committee on Immunization guidelines allow for up to four months between doses, helping spread the vaccine supply.
With files from CTV's Mike Arsalides