Ontario is reporting 998 additional cases of COVID-19 on Thursday, with the number of hospitalizations and ICU admissions in the province continuing to rise.
Of those new cases, 350 were found in Toronto, 269 in Peel and 71 in York Region. The seven-day average for cases is now up to 982. That average is a measure that helps to provide a clearer picture of longer-term trends in daily case counts, rather than day-to-day comparisons.
Other regions seeing double-digit increases include Ottawa with 45 new cases, Durham with 33, Hamilton with 37 and Halton with 47.
Dr. Michael Warner, medical director of critical care at Michael Garron Hospital in Toronto, told CBC News that healthcare workers are feeling strained.
"[Healthcare workers] are relatively burnt out from having to deal with this since January, and burnt out from our warnings not being heeded or listened to," he said.
Peel and York are currently in the final stretch of a 28-day modified Stage 2 period, but on Saturday both will move to the province's "restrict" category, corresponding with the orange level of risk in the new system rolled out by the government Tuesday. Toronto is set to follow one week later.
Warner said Ontario's healthcare system will be "collateral damage" of province's new framework. "It's likely the number of COVID cases in Ontario will increase because restrictions are being loosened in the hot zone regions," he said.
Dr. Brooks Fallis, division head and medical director of critical care at William Osler Health System in Peel Region, told CBC News that relaxing restrictions on gyms, bars and restaurants in hotspot areas right now is "totally inappropriate and dangerous." He said ICUs are at or near capacity at Osler, with the virus showing "explosive growth."
"There is no question more people will die because of these decisions," Fallis said.
"I have never felt more morally and ethically at odds with a group of Canadian government leaders as I do right now with the actions of the Ford government."
Premier Doug Ford, meanwhile, has defended the province's newest plan in recent days.
"I think this is a good plan. It's unprecedented when it comes to transparency," Ford said Wednesday.
Though the province usually hosts daily news conferences at 1 p.m. where the premier and ministers take questions, nothing is scheduled for Thursday until later in the afternoon when the new provincial budget is released.
There were also 948 more cases marked as resolved Thursday, and 35,754 tests completed. That number is up following three straight days of testing below the 30,000 mark, but still far below the province's current capacity of about 50,000.
Provincial health officials said this week there is now a target to build capacity for 100,000 laboratory tests daily by mid-December, in addition to about 100,000 rapid tests scheduled to be deployed to priority groups starting this month.
This week's testing lull has prompted Ford to repeatedly ask anyone with symptoms to book an appointment for a test.
The province also reported 13 new deaths Thursday, while hospitalizations continue to tick up. There are now 381 patients in Ontario hospitals with COVID-19, the most so far during the second wave. During the spring peak alongside widespread outbreaks in long-term care homes, more than 1,000 patients with COVID-19 were in hospital.
Today there are at least 86 patients in intensive care, and 48 of those are on ventilators.
There are also 16 new ICU admissions, marking the biggest single-day jump since May, according to a Thursday morning report prepared by Critical Care Services Ontario (CCSO). That report is distributed daily to critical care stakeholders and shows the most up-to-date numbers provided directly by intensive care units across the province.
The CCSO is reporting 96 people with COVID in critical care as of Thursday. Warner said that number is "higher than it has been for some time."