Ontario's daily COVID-19 cases top 1,000 for 1st time, day after reaching previous high
Bulk of new cases reported in Toronto, York and Peel regions and Ottawa
Ontario reported a record 1,042 new COVID-19 cases on Sunday, marking the first time cases have surpassed 1,000 a day since the outbreak began in late January.
The bulk of the new cases remain concentrated in the long-standing hot spots of Toronto, its neighbouring regions of York and Peel, and Ottawa.
Health Minister Christine Elliott said 309 new cases were in Toronto, followed by 289 in Peel Region, 117 in York Region and 80 in Ottawa.
Meanwhile, Ontario's network of community, commercial and hospital labs processed nearly 38,800 test samples since its last update, the Health Ministry says — well below the province's goal of processing 50,000 tests per day by mid-October.
Sunday's count of new cases surpasses the previous high of 978, which was reported on Saturday.
The seven-day average of new daily cases, a measure that limits noise in the data, reached a record-high for a second straight day, climbing to about 857.
After a brief lull in its upward trajectory, dropping to about 732 on Oct. 19, the seven-day average has since been rising steadily once again.
Ontario also recorded seven new deaths linked to the novel coronavirus, bringing the province's official COVID-19 death toll to 3,093.
Case count may be result of Thanksgiving: health minister
In a statement to CBC News on Sunday, Elliott said it takes about two weeks for public health measures to "show their full impact" on the rates of COVID-19 transmission.
She also said it's likely that the increase is a result of Thanksgiving gatherings.
"We continue to urge all Ontarians to do their part and not let their guard down by continuing to limit close contact and practise the public health measures that we know work and keep us safe," she said in the statement.
Elliott said health officials will continue to monitor the situation and take "swift action as needed" to limit the transmission of the virus.
Her comments come less than two weeks after Ontario's chief medical officer of health, Dr. David Williams, suggested the province's COVID-19 cases may be "plateauing."
Dr. Isaac Bogoch, an infectious disease specialist at Toronto General Hospital, told CBC News on Sunday that the province's seven-day average of case counts is "moving in the wrong direction."
Bogoch agreed with Elliott in saying that this upward trajectory could be the result of Thanksgiving gatherings or the fact that it can take two weeks for new public health policies to have an impact on the number of cases.
Because of that, he said, it's possible Ontario will see a plateau in cases this week.
He added that there are early indicators that suggest things "may" start to improve.
"It's clearly an unfortunate number to see and it's not a milestone anyone wanted to reach," he said.
"Having said that, I like to take a step back and look at the bigger picture."
WATCH | Dr. Isaac Bogoch breaks down Ontario's numbers:
Provincial case total tops 70,000
Meanwhile, a total of 278 people are hospitalized in Ontario due to COVID-19, including 79 in intensive care.
Some 54 people require ventilators, an increase of one from Saturday.
The number of long-term care homes currently managing COVID-19 outbreaks increased by four from Saturday, to 82.
Sunday's record number mirrors projections made by scientists and physicians last month, suggesting that Ontario's second wave of COVID-19 would peak in mid- to late October and would exceed 1,000 new cases per day.
Ontario health officials released their own modelling projections two days later, predicting a similar surge in cases by mid-October.
Sunday's update brings Ontario's provincial total of cases to 70,373. Some 736 cases were marked resolved.
Halton politicians make plea to stay in Stage 3
Meanwhile, politicians from a Toronto-area region facing the prospect of stricter public health measures pleaded for an exemption on Saturday, arguing the local COVID-19 caseload isn't on par with numbers in other hot spots that drove Ontario's total to a new single-day high.
The Ontario government moved Toronto, Ottawa, York Region and Peel Region back to a modified Stage 2 of the provincial pandemic recovery plan over the past few weeks, citing rising case numbers.
The province also raised the idea of tightening restrictions on the nearby region of Halton as well in the coming days.
But municipal and provincial politicians with ties to Halton, including members of the province's governing Progressive Conservative Party, issued a letter on Saturday imploring public health officials to spare the region west of Toronto from widespread restrictions.
"There is no evidence to suggest that moving Halton to a modified Phase 2 will have any meaningful impact on reducing case counts," reads the letter to Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. David Williams.
"One thing that is certain, is that many people and businesses cannot financially withstand another shutdown."
13 regions see double-digit increases
Sunday's data showed 31 new cases in Halton, an increase of 10 from Saturday.
A handful of other areas saw double-digit increases as well:
- Durham Region: 52.
- Niagara Region: 23.
- Waterloo Region: 21.
- Eastern Ontario: 17.
- Simcoe Muskoka: 16.
- Hamilton: 13.
- Windsor-Essex: 12.
- Middlesex-London: 10.
With files from Julia Knope and The Canadian Press