SUDBURY -- The COVID case count in the area covered by Public Health Sudbury & Districts continued to climb Thursday, with 16 new cases reported, bringing the total in the last four days to 78.

The health unit said nine of the cases are being screened for the much more contagious COVID variant. In all, there have now been 714 cases since the start of the pandemic, with 14 deaths linked to the disease.

Of the 16 announced Thursday, 15 are in Greater Sudbury and one is in Sudbury district. Nine are related to an outbreak, two are the result of close contact with a confirmed case and the source of five is under investigation. Five involved people under age 19, five between the ages of 20-39, five between the ages of 40-59, and one between the ages of 60-79.

Sudbury is currently under the orange-restrict framework under Ontario's system for classifying the state of the pandemic in each health unit. The area could be headed for a tighter designation – red-control – which Dr. Penny Sutcliffe, medical officer of health, said this week is where we belong according to the number of new cases.

An announcement from the province whether the city's status will change normally comes on Fridays, and is made in consultation with Sudbury health officials and Ontario's medical officer of health. Such changes usually take effect the following Monday.