Ontario reported another 2,408 cases of COVID-19 and the deaths of 41 more people with the illness on Wednesday.
The case count is the second-highest on a single day since the pandemic began, and a ninth consecutive day of more than 2,000 cases in the province.
Wednesday's figure includes 629 cases in Toronto, 448 in Peel Region, 234 in Windsor-Essex, 190 in York Region, 150 in Hamilton and 136 in Durham Region.
Other public health units that saw double-digit increases were:
Halton Region: 88
Waterloo Region: 80
Niagara Region: 76
Simcoe Muskoka: 46
Thunder Bay: 18
Brant County: 14
Huron Perth: 11
(Note: All of the figures used for new cases in this story are found on the Ontario Health Ministry'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.)
Combined, they push the seven-day average to a record-high 2,304.
There are currently 19,424 confirmed, active infections of the novel coronavirus provincewide, the most at any point since the first was reported in Ontario on January 25.
Further, there are now 1,002 people in Ontario hospitals with confirmed cases of COVID-19.
Of those, 275 are being treated in intensive care and 186 require the use of a ventilator to breathe — both new highs for the pandemic, according to the province's official data.
Hospitals in various parts of southern Ontario, particularly in the Greater Toronto Area and surrounding regions, have warned that increasing ICU admissions threaten to overwhelm the health-care system in coming weeks if climbing case numbers are not brought under control.
Premier Doug Ford announced this week that the entire province would move into lockdown on Boxing Day. Twenty-seven of Ontario's 34 public health units will remain in the shutdown for at least 28 days, while in regions throughout the north the tighter restrictions could be lifted after two weeks.
In a statement this morning, Ford once again encouraged Ontarians to avoid gathering with family and friends outside of their immediate households over the holiday season.
"The COVID-19 pandemic has presented unprecedented challenges here in Ontario and around the world, but the Ontario spirit of our people has shone brightly through these dark times," Ford said.
"I know this will be a difficult period, but we must remain on our guard. Together, we will get through these trying times," he added.
Critics have questioned the government's decision to wait until Dec. 26 to implement the shutdown, and labour groups have pointed out that the guidelines do little to protect essential workers.
In her own statement today, NDP Leader Andrea Horwath urged the province to close what she called "gaping holes" in its lockdown plan, namely a lack of paid sick leave, asymptomatic testing in essential workplaces and the availability of isolation sites for workers who fall ill with COVID-19.
"If Ford continues to refuse to put a plan in place to support essential workers, he's setting the stage for a broken lockdown, and deeper, longer pain for everyone," she said.
"Essential workers will keep on working through the holiday and during the lockdown. We need a plan to swab asymptomatic folks at their workplaces including food processing facilities, manufacturing plants, retirement homes and big retail outlets," Horwarth continued.
Meanwhile, Ontario's network of labs processed 56,660 test samples for the novel coronavirus and reported a test positivity rate of 4.8 per cent. Another 66,976 tests are in the queue to be completed.
The additional 41 deaths increase Ontario's official toll to 4,229.
Health Canada approves Moderna vaccine
Also Wednesday, Health Canada approved Moderna's COVID-19 vaccine for use in this country, clearing the way for thousands of doses to arrive by month's end.
Last week, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said Canada would receive up to 168,000 doses of the Moderna vaccine before the end of December, and that deliveries would begin within 48 hours of Health Canada's authorization.
Ontario's vaccine distribution task force previously said that the province expects 800,000 doses of the vaccine through the first three months of 2021.
Unlike the Pfizer-BioNtech vaccine approved by Health Canada on Dec. 9 and already in circulation in Ontario, the Moderna vaccine does not require storage at ultra-low temperatures. Therefore it will expand capacity for immunizations in long-term care homes and rural communities.
The vaccine requires two doses taken about 28 days apart.