Ontario reports nearly 2,600 new COVID-19 cases for first time in months

Ontario health officials are reporting nearly 2,600 new cases of COVID-19 for the first time in more than two months.

The province confirmed 2,557 new cases of the novel coronavirus on Thursday. Officials have now logged more than 2,000 infections for eight straight days.

The last time the province reported a daily case total above the 2,500 mark was on Jan. 22, during the height of the second wave, when 2,662 infections were reported.

The province’s seven-day average for number of cases recorded is now 2,341, up from 1,794 one week ago.

With 62,290 tests processed in the last 24 hours, the province says its COVID-19 positivity rate remains at 4.8 per cent.

Health officials also reported that 23 more people have died in Ontario due to COVID-19. In total, the province has seen 7,389 deaths related to the novel coronavirus since the start of the pandemic.

A group of more than 150 critical care doctors wrote a letter to the Ontario government on Thursday, asking for immediate measure to curb the spread of the disease and prevent more deaths.

Officials reported on Thursday that 1,116 people are currently in hospital due to the disease. At least 433 of these patients are being treated in intensive care and 259 are breathing with the assistance of a ventilator.

The province also deemed 1,814 more cases of the disease to be resolved as of Thursday, bringing Ontario’s number of recovered patients up to 324,196.

Thursday’s report brings the total number of lab-confirmed cases in Ontario to 352,460, including deaths and recoveries.

Where are the COVID-19 cases in Ontario?

Most of the new cases reported on Thursday are concentrated in hot spot regions in the Greater Toronto Area. Officials reported 743 new cases in Toronto, 484 in Peel Region and 311 in York Region.

Several other regions reported infection totals in the triple digits, including Ottawa, which reported 131 new cases, Hamilton, which reported 119 new cases, and Durham Region, which reported 107 new cases.

In response to the surge in ICU cases and infection rates, Ontario Premier Doug Ford announced a province-wide shutdown on Thursday that will start on Saturday and will last for a month at least.

However, the measures still allow for some non-essential activities and stop short of the stay-at-home orders recommended by Ontario's science table on Thursday, which were previously imposed following the Christmas holiday.

Variants in Ontario

Since the province began actively searching for COVID-19 variants of concern in Ontario, there have been 22,371 mutations discovered in lab-positive tests.

Of those mutations, officials found 1,025 in the last 24-hour period.

While the province has discovered thousands of variant mutations, only 2,116 have undergone genome testing in order to be officially categorized.

There are at least 1,953 cases of the B.1.1.7. variant in Ontario, as well as 67 B.1.351 variant and 96 P.1. variant.

More than 317K people fully vaccinated in Ontario

The province reports that 317,715 people in Ontario have received both doses of the COVID-19 vaccine and are now considered immunized against the disease.

In the last 24-hour period, officials said that 84,060 doses of the vaccine were administered to residents in the province.