Ontario reports record-breaking 9,571 new COVID-19 cases

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Ontario set a new record high in COVID-19 cases for a second day in a row Friday, reporting 9,571 new infections.

The new peak represents a 65 per cent increase over the record 5,790 cases counted Thursday. Before that, the highest number of new daily cases was 4,812, recorded in April.

The seven-day average number of new cases sat at 4,923 Friday, two-and-a-half times higher than the average 1,914 a week earlier.

A spokeswoman for Health Minister Christine Elliott said the situation is only expected to worsen.

"Due to the highly transmissible nature of the Omicron variant, it was expected that case numbers would increase in the winter months," Alexandra Hilkene said in an emailed statement.

"We expect they will continue to increase over the coming days and weeks, as other jurisdictions are seeing similar case rate increases per capita."

Experts said Thursday the current spike in daily infections doesn't present a full picture of the COVID-19 situation in the province, as testing systems are increasingly strained in several regions due to the fast-spreading Omicron variant.

Even as cases rise, Hilkene said the hospital system is holding up.

Provincial data shows 508 people hospitalized with the virus as of Friday, 150 more than were in hospital a week earlier.

The number of people in intensive care, meanwhile, remains relatively steady. There were 154 people testing positive for the virus in ICU on Friday, compared to 139 a week earlier.

"We expect the number of admissions to rise in the coming weeks as Omicron spreads, particularly among the unvaccinated," Hilkene said. "To date, the effectiveness of vaccines has meant that despite a rapid increase in cases, we have not seen a corresponding increase in hospitalizations and ICU admissions."

As of Friday, 355 of the people hospitalized due to COVID-19 were not fully vaccinated or had an unknown vaccination status, as were 88 of those in ICU.

Hilkene said getting vaccinated remains the best way to protect the hospital system from collapsing under the strain of caring for COVID-19 patients.

Provincial data showed 86.8 per cent of Ontarians five and older had at least one dose of COVID-19 vaccine as of Friday, and 81.2 per cent had at least two doses.

The province administered 253,000 vaccine doses Wednesday, Hilkene said.

Ontario also reported six new deaths linked to COVID-19 on Friday.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Dec. 24, 2021.

The Canadian Press

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