Ontario reported 441 additional cases of COVID-19 on Friday, a third straight day of increasing new daily cases after the province officially entered its first phase of reopening earlier this week.
The new cases — the most on a single day since May 8 — bring the total number of confirmed cases of the illness in the province to 24,628. Of those, slightly more than 76 per cent, or 18,767, are resolved. The five-day rolling average of new cases has been trending upward for the last 10 days, after a steady three-week decline.
The two-week high comes as warmer weather arrives in Ontario and just days after the official start of the province's reopening, raising questions about how the government might reinstate lockdown measures if needed.
Asked about that during his daily COVID-19 briefing Friday, Premier Doug Ford didn't offer a firm answer.
"Let's see where we go on this," he said. "We're seeing some peaks and valleys but hopefully the trend goes down because I know the last few days, it's gone up and it's concerning."
Ontario's Chief Medical Officer of Health, Dr. David Williams, was asked Friday if he thought Mother's Day may have played a role in the rising numbers.
Williams responded by saying he didn't think Mother's Day itself was a factor but that people may have been more "casual" over the last few weekends than he would have liked.
Just hours later, at least one public health official suggested otherwise.
"Our analysis thus far suggests that people may have acquired the virus during recent events where people traditionally spend time with their families, like Mother's Day, said Toronto's Medical Officer of Health Dr. Eileen de Villa.
"We need to keep monitoring our data to see if events like these or increased mixing of people related to reopening is creating more COVID-19 transmission in our city," she said.
Meanwhile, the number of tests processed by Ontario's network of labs yesterday was 11,276, still short of its own benchmark of 16,000 per day. It's the fifth straight day that the province has failed to meet its target, let alone its capacity of 20,000. The backlog of tests waiting to be processed grew to 5,516.
With criticism mounting about the need for more testing in Ontario, Ford appealed to anyone with symptoms Friday to visit a COVID-19 assessment centre.
The premier also said testing will be re-done in long-term care homes over the weekend as well as in retirement homes, and that testing could roll out to truckers and factory workers starting next week.
"I'm just on these numbers constantly, pushing the system," Ford said.
Ontario Health Minister Christine Elliott was asked Friday about the possibility of testing children when the province gets closer to reopening schools. Elliott responded that could in fact happen but would require the permission of a parent or guardian, and would have to be conducted by properly trained health-care workers.
WATCH | Coronavirus testing isn't ramping up with reopening:
Also announced Friday was a new tools grant program for apprentices and a so-called virtual action centre to support laid off and unemployed hospitality workers, which will provide up to 7,000 workers with access to online mental health support and skills training.
The government says it is also forgiving more than $10 million in outstanding loans owed by about 19,000 apprentices for tools, equipment, clothing and other items — about $495 each.
Community spread responsible for 1/3 of cases
Some 34.4 per cent of confirmed cases are known to have spread through community transmission, according to the Ministry of Health, while "information is pending" for another 31 per cent.
The province has said it is currently meeting its goal of contact tracing 92 per cent of new daily cases within 24 hours. In his daily address this morning, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said that federal employees are assisting Ontario with that effort.
Ford said Friday the province is looking for an appropriate app for Ontarians to download to their phones to help with with contact tracing, but said privacy would be key if the province goes that route.
The Greater Toronto Area continues to account for a majority of cases, 63.9 per cent, in Ontario. Toronto Public Health announced today that it is partnering with the Registered Nurses' Association of Ontario to ramp up its contact tracing efforts locally.
Some 30.4 per cent of total confirmed cases in the province have been in people aged 40-59. The 20-39 demographic makes up 24.8 per cent of all cases. People aged 60-79 and over 80 account for 20.9 per cent and 20.8 per cent, respectively.
Meanwhile, Ontario's official death toll increased by 28 to 2,021. But data compiled directly from regional public health units puts the current toll at at least 2,113.
Nearly 77 per cent of deaths were residents in long-term care homes, CBC News has found.
Province considering mobile testing
Ford said Friday that Ontario will be rolling out an advertising campaign encouraging people to get tested, particularly in areas with higher concentrations of COVID-19 cases.
The province is also considering mobile testing options in areas where infections are deemed to be higher, Associate Medical Officer of Health Dr. Barbara Yaffe said. Meanwhile, Windsor-Essex County Health Unit said it will start random spot testing in the community with the help of local paramedics, including drive-thru and trailer-based testing at different locations. That testing is expected to begin next week. As for whether the province would consider mandatory testing, that would be "quite unlikely," Yaffe said.
"That's a last resort."