Ontario reported 435 new COVID-19 cases on Saturday, with the province having processed 43,238 tests on Friday, a new record for a single day.
The majority of newly confirmed infections of the novel coronavirus are concentrated in three public health units, namely Toronto, Peel Region and Ottawa. These areas have 131, 110 and 45 additional cases, respectively, as of Saturday's provincial update.
Meanwhile, 64 per cent of Saturday's cases are among people under the age of 40, according to Ontario Health Minister Christine Elliott.
The Ontario health ministry reported that 100 people are in hospital with COVID-19. Twenty-eight people are in intensive care units, while 15 are on ventilators.
A total of 2,837 people have died of the virus in the province. No new deaths, however, were reported by the ministry on Saturday.
According to the ministry, Ontario has had a total of 49,340 cumulative cases, with 42,505 marked as resolved.
The new cases come one day after the provincial government announced it is shutting down strip clubs and imposing tighter restrictions on bar and restaurant hours in a bid to curb the spread of COVID-19.
Premier Doug Ford has said the latest restrictions will help reduce transmission in high-risk businesses.
Bars and restaurants are now required to close at midnight, except for takeout and delivery, and must stop serving alcohol by 11 p.m.
Crowd gathers to protest masks in downtown Toronto
A crowd gathered in downtown Toronto on Saturday to take part in a demonstration organized by a group called "Hugs Over Masks Nation."
The demonstration was billed as a "Freedom Rally." Participants walked south on Yonge Street to Yonge-Dundas Square, where many stood close together without masks.
Several held placards, including one that read: "Protect the Vulnerable, Free the Healthy!"
In a series of tweets, Toronto Mayor John Tory said the organizers of these protests are "trying to spread ridiculous and inaccurate information that, if believed, puts people's lives at risk."
Tory said that wearing a mask helps keep everyone safe and reiterates that he trusts the advice given by public health officials.
"I trust the people of Toronto will make the right choice between advice offered by our best medical experts as opposed to baseless propaganda put forward by an eccentric collection of protesters," Tory said.
Toronto police are on the scene to keep the peace, however, were wearing masks.
Some pharmacies now offering COVID-19 testing
Meanwhile, some Ontario pharmacies began offering COVID-19 tests on Friday as the provincial government tries to take pressure off of busy assessment centres.
That change come as the province shifts its testing strategy to focus more on symptomatic people.
According to the ministry, people can get tested by appointment only at up to 60 pharmacies if they have no symptoms and are workers or residents of high-risk settings, such as long-term care homes, homeless shelters and other congregate settings.
Visitors to long-term care homes can also get tested at pharmacies.
The ministry said testing at pharmacies is available as well to people identified as part of a targeted testing campaign as directed by the health ministry and long-term care ministry, or by local public health.
Participating pharmacies can be located in the online Ontario assessment centre location finder.
Pharmacies need infection control measures in place
Alexandra Hilkene, spokesperson for the Ontario health ministry, said pharmacies will be required to have proper infection control procedures and tools in place to protect patients and staff.
"In compliance with public health guidance pharmacies must ensure that there is sufficient space that is dedicated to specimen collection. This space should be designed to minimize contact between the specimen collection area and the rest of the commercial area through the use of plexiglass barriers or other physical barriers/markers," she said.
"When visiting a pharmacy, Ontarians should adhere to public health measures, including wearing a face covering, frequent hand washing and maintaining physical distance from those outside your household or social circle."
The ministry says people who have symptoms of COVID-19 must visit an assessment centre for testing.
All of this means, however, that some people with no symptoms who are simply seeking reassurance that they don't have the virus will not be able to access testing at pharmacies.
Dr. Peter Lin, a Toronto-based family physician, said he thinks testing at pharmacies will enable the province to lower its backlog of tests waiting to be processed, which currently sits at 68,040.
"People that don't fit into those [higher risk] categories, if they go for testing, they're just taking up the capacity and their tests will come back as negative," he told CBC News on Saturday.
"That's not a good way to use our resources."
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