Ontario reports 1,003 COVID-19 hospitalizations and 39 more deaths on Friday
Number of ICU patients drops below 300 for the first time since early January
Ontario is reporting 1,003 people hospitalized with COVID-19 on Friday, marking the lowest number the province has seen since last December — the beginning of the Omicron wave.
The number of people in intensive care units also dropped, with the province reporting 297 people in ICUs. That marks the first time that figure has been under 300 since Jan. 5.
The province is set to lift its proof of vaccination requirements next week as part of Ontario's reopening plan due to positive trends in public health indicators but the province's top doctor said mask requirements will remain in place for the time being.
Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Kieran Moore said at a Thursday news briefing that masks remain "an important tool in our tool box" when it comes to reducing transmission of the virus.
Moore said given positive trends in public health indicators and the province's high vaccination rate, health officials are actively reviewing all directives to health-care providers, and hope to provide an update in the coming weeks.
The number of hospitalizations reported Friday is down from 1,066 the day before and from 1,281 at the same time last week.
According to the Ministry of Health, about 49 per cent of those admitted to hospital were seeking treatment for COVID-19 symptoms, while 51 per cent were admitted for other reasons but have since tested positive for the virus.
About 76 per cent were admitted to intensive care specifically for the virus, while the rest were admitted for other reasons and tested positive.
The number of ICU patients dropped by five on Friday, down from 302 the day before and 352 one week ago.
The province also reported 39 additional deaths, pushing the official death toll to 12,386.
Wastewater signals rising slightly
The latest wastewater data from Ontario's COVID-19 Science Advisory Table suggests virus levels are back on the rise in the province.
Levels rose slightly in all regions of the province except in the North and southwestern Ontario, as of Feb. 16.
More locally, wastewater surveillance data from Toronto Public Health also indicate infections may be increasing in the city's northern areas.
Monitoring wastewater data across the province has been a helpful indicator for health officials to get a relative sense of the number of coronavirus infections in an area while PCR testing remains limited to those deemed highest-risk.