Ontario reported another 1,058 cases of COVID-19 on Monday, as one long-standing hot spot for the illness moves back into the province's colour-coded system of restrictions.
The new cases in today's update include 325 in Toronto, 215 in Peel Regions and 87 in York Region, where businesses are allowed to reopen and non-essential retailers and restaurants can welcome customers back with capacity limits.
York formally moved into the red "control" level of Ontario's reopening framework this morning, meaning its stay-at-home order has been lifted.
The region has consistently logged some of Ontario's highest COVID-19 case counts, but the local medical officer of health requested that the province move it back to the tiered framework to bring it in line with most of Ontario's other public health units.
"As of midnight, all but three of our health units have entered the coloured framework. To be clear, that's not an opening up, that's a relaxing of the measures to a lower level," said David Williams, Ontario's chief medical officer of health, at a press conference Monday. He said the daily average is hovering around 1,000 cases a day. "We will be fairly quick at moving things up if they're going in the wrong direction," he said.
"Those numbers are still staying in the lower end but we have to be very cautious, and we are very concerned about where they might go," Williams said.
The province is also monitoring new variants of concern in the province. Testing so far has confirmed 400 variants of concern in Ontario, with 390 cases of the B117 variant first reported in the UK.
A stay-at-home order remains in effect only for Toronto, Peel and North Bay-Parry Sound until at least March 8.
Other public health units that saw double-digit increases in confirmed cases were:
Waterloo Region: 48
Simcoe Muskoka: 47
Durham Region: 45
Thunder Bay: 32
Halton Region: 28
Niagara Region: 14
(Note: All of the figures used in this story are found on the Ministry of Health's COVID-19 dashboard or in its Daily Epidemiologic Summary. The number of cases for any region may differ from what is reported by the local public health unit, because local units report figures at different times.)
The cases logged today come as Ontario's lab network completed just 31,163 tests for SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, and reported a test positivity rate of 3.3 per cent.
The seven-day average of daily cases rose to 1,045. A precipitous fall in the seven-day average that began on Jan. 11 has started to level off.
There are now about 10,335 confirmed, active infections provincewide.
According to the Ministry of Health, there were 646 people with COVID-19 in hospitals. Of those, 280 were being treated in intensive care and 189 needed a ventilator.
Public health units also recorded another 11 deaths of people with the illness, pushing Ontario's official toll to 6,872.
Meanwhile, the Ministry of Education reported 55 more school-related cases of the illness, 47 students and eight staff members.
The ministry also released early results from its asymptomatic testing program, which was recently introduced as part of the government's plan to reopen all publicly funded schools.
A total of 3,706 students were tested at 416 schools, broken down by public health unit as:
336 schools in Peel Region
40 schools in Toronto
35 schools in Ottawa
Three schools in Sudbury
Two schools in Hamilton
The testing confirmed COVID-19 cases in 32 students, or .86 per cent of all those tested. Two additional tests are pending in Peel Region.
The ministry said it plans to offer weekly updates on the results of the program.
Later today, the province's chief public health officer is due to testify before a commission investigating how Ontario's response to COVID-19 affected long-term care homes.
Dr. David Williams' comments will not be live-streamed, but the Long-Term Care COVID-19 Commission is expected to post a transcript at a later date.
Moreover, the province administered 12,922 doses of COVID-19 vaccines yesterday, the Ministry of Health said. A total of 240,669 people have now received both shots of a vaccine and are fully immunized.
Across Ontario, the vaccine rollout is being spread across 34 public health units that each have their own strategies. During a press conference on Monday, Solicitor General Sylvia Jones said the individual units know their communities best. "They are not new organizations," she said, adding that they have historic health data on their communities and have close relationships with the hospitals in each region.
In response to a question about reports that some non-frontline workers had received vaccinations ahead of vulnerable populations, Ontario premier Doug Ford said vaccination centres have to follow the provincial guidelines. "What happens, is they schedule an appointment, some people don't show up, they don't want to leave an empty seat there, he said. "But the vast majority are following the protocols."
Funding for 373 more PSWs
The Ministry of Labour, Training and Skills Development says it will spend $4.1 million to help train hundreds of personal support workers.
In a statement, the ministry said the money will go toward eight projects in regions especially hard-hit by the pandemic, and help train 373 new PSWs.
Several of the projects are already underway, while others will start in the spring, the release said.
Some of the funding will also be used to develop educational resources meant to reduce PSWs exposure to infections.