Ontario reported another 3,295 cases of COVID-19 on Thursday, as public health units administered a record-high 108,563 doses of vaccine and a renewed provincewide stay-at-home order went into effect.
A total of 326,360 people in the province have received both shots of vaccine, according to the Ministry of Health.
As of Wednesday evening, Ontario had administered just over 70 per cent of the 4,031,325 doses it has received from the federal government to date. More than a million of those total doses arrived last weekend.
Nine public health units confirmed triple-digit increases in COVID-19 cases: 933 in Toronto, 649 in Peel Region, 386 in York Region, 165 in Durham Region, 156 in Halton Region, 160 in Ottawa, 125 in Middlesex-London, 124 in Simcoe Muskoka and 110 in Niagara Region.
The infections come as labs completed 63,846 tests for SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, and logged a positivity rate of six per cent.
The seven-day average of new daily cases grew to 3,093. It was last above 3,000 on Jan. 18.
The province also reported the deaths of 19 more people with COVID-19, pushing the official toll to 7,494. The seven-day average of daily deaths is currently about 15 — a figure that topped 60 per day during the second wave of the illness, before most long-term care residents were vaccinated.
Meanwhile, a stay-at-home order announced by Premier Doug Ford yesterday went into effect at 12:01 a.m. ET. The order was partly in response to a worsening situation in hospitals, particularly in the Greater Toronto Area, and came with a third emergency declaration since the pandemic began early last year.
The government broadcast an alert on its emergency system to phones, radios and televisions shortly after 11 a.m.
"Only leave home for essential purposes such as food, health care, vaccines, exercise or work. It's the law," the message read.
As part of yesterday's announcement, the government said it would begin offering vaccines to all residents aged 18 and over in about 90 "hot spot" neighbourhoods in a bid to bring the third wave of COVID-19 under control. Those especially hard-hit postal codes in Toronto and Peel will initially be prioritized, before appointments open up to those in other hot spot neighbourhoods, which are spread out over 13 public health units.
The Ministry of Health says there are 525 patients with COVID-19-related illnesses being treated in intensive care units, 496 of whom are still testing positive. More than 330 of those people require a ventilator to breathe.
Intensive-care physicians have suggested recently that if admissions continue to climb, they may need to implement a triage protocol to decide who gets potentially life-saving care and who does not.
Health Minister Christine Elliott says the province has not yet finalized its protocol, though a document was sent to hospitals in January during the second wave in Ontario, laying out broad guidelines for triage. Under those guidelines, patients are ranked on their likelihood to survive a year after the onset of critical illness.
In a briefing last week, Ontario's COVID-19 science advisory table said that, even with a stay-at-home order in effect, admissions to ICUs could top 800 by the end of April.
The increase in hospitalizations is largely being driven by variants of concern, the table said.
To date in Ontario, more than 21,000 samples that tested positive for COVID-19 have also screened positive for a particular genetic mutation that indicates the presence of a variant.
Variants are more transmissible and increase both the risk of severe illness and death from COVID-19, the table said, which estimates they currently account for about 65 per cent of all new infections in the province.
With files from Lucas Powers and The Canadian Press
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