Ontario reported a new single-day record of 2,447 new COVID-19 cases on Thursday, with 49 additional deaths.
Today's case count surpasses the province's previous high of 2,432, which was recorded on Dec. 17.
Thursday's figure also marks the tenth consecutive day of more than 2,000 new cases in the province. The province saw 2,408 infections on Wednesday and 2,202 recorded the day before that.
Of today's new cases, 646 were reported in Toronto, 502 in Peel Region, 173 in Windsor-Essex, 263 in York Region and 101 in Hamilton.
Meanwhile, Ontario's network of community, commercial and hospital labs processed nearly 64,600 novel coronavirus test samples yesterday, the Ministry of Health says.
Other public health units that saw double-digit increases were:
Durham Region: 92.
Waterloo Region: 82.
Niagara Region: 93.
Halton Region: 55.
Simcoe Muskoka: 38.
Thunder Bay: 20.
Brant County: 16.
The province's seven-day average of new daily cases has also broken a new record and now sits at 2,306.
(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.)
Toronto hospital to take over at hard-hit Tendercare LTC
Meanwhile, a Toronto hospital says it's been asked to take over management of a Scarborough, Ont., care home where nearly half of all residents have tested positive for COVID-19 and more than 20 people have died.
North York General Hospital says details of the voluntary management agreement with Ontario's Ministry of Long-Term Care and Tendercare Living Centre are being finalized.
As of Thursday, 121 of 254 residents at Tendercare have tested positive for COVID-19 and 24 residents have died, according to provincial data.
Forty-nine staff members at Tendercare have tested positive in the outbreak.
The hospital says a team has been at the home since Monday to assess the situation and develop a plan.
Meanwhile, Hotel-Dieu Grace Healthcare hospital is taking over essential operations at The Village at St. Clair long-term care home in Windsor, which is experiencing that region's largest COVID-19 outbreak.
The hospital said it would be stepping in and "assisting the Village with their needs," in a news release Thursday.
The home was declared in outbreak by the local health unit on Dec. 8. As of Thursday, the health unit is reporting 164 cases — 97 residents and 67 staff members, with 12 residents having died from the disease.
Peel hospitals look to hire doctors for temporary support
A network of hospitals in Ontario's Peel Region is looking to temporarily hire doctors for "pandemic support."
Trillium Health Partners has three hospitals in its network. A news release issued Wednesday said they are looking for general internists to support the network's "temporary pandemic needs across our sites."
Credit Valley Hospital, Mississauga Hospital and Queensway Health Centre serve more than a million residents in Peel Region and Toronto's west end.
There are currently six COVID-19 outbreaks at Trillium Health sites: four at Credit Valley Hospital, one at Queensway Health Centre and another at the Reactivation Care Centre.
Ontario to move into lockdown on Boxing Day
Meanwhile, on Monday, Ontario Premier Doug Ford announced that the entire province would move into lockdown come Boxing Day.
Twenty-seven of Ontario's 34 public health units will remain in the shutdown for at least 28 days, while regions throughout the north could see the tighter restrictions lifted after two weeks.
While the provincial shutdown is set to begin a day after Christmas, Ford is continuing to urge families not to gather for the holiday and is urging people to only leave their home for essential trips such as work or groceries.
For those living alone, Ford advised to consider exclusive celebrating the holidays with one other household.
Toronto Mayor John Tory agreed with Ford, thanking Torontonians who are following public health advice this holiday season and only celebrating with the people they live with.
"I know this won't be an easy Christmas and holiday season for many and I understand that after this long difficult year, we all want to be with our loved ones," Tory said in a holiday message on Thursday.
"But your sacrifice this Christmas will help protect your family and friends and help stop the spread of the virus in our city."
Tory said with more vaccines being rolled out to more hospitals and long-term care homes across Toronto, the need to "hunker down" is especially crucial during these times to protect the health-care system and help front-line workers in managing the surge of COVID-19 cases.
'Abstinence-only messaging is not helpful'
Samantha Yammine, a neuroscientist and science communicator, said public health guidance around gatherings this holiday season doesn't work.
"The fact that we've been hearing so much abstinence-only messaging is not helpful and I think it will do a lot of harm and it just further ostracizes people," Yammine said on Wednesday.
"We know from years of research on HIV, we know from years of sex-ed research, preaching abstinence-only doesn't work," Yammine told CBC Toronto. "And to say that people can just cancel all their plans for Christmas, that's not a fair assumption to make."
"There are real needs that people have to connect. And it is natural for humans to want to socialize, especially around this tradition, especially at the end of what's been a really tough year," she said.
Yammine said what's needed right now is a harm reduction approach that will allow people to make the safest decisions for themselves.
"Knowing that people may have already made up their mind, the best that we can do as an impact is empower them with the information to make the lowest possible risk decisions."
Hospitals across southern Ontario, particularly in the Greater Toronto Area and its surrounding regions, have warned that increasing intensive care admissions threaten to overwhelm the health-care system in coming weeks if climbing case numbers are not brought under control.
There are currently 19,809 confirmed, active infections of the novel coronavirus provincewide.
A total of 967 people are hospitalized with COVID-19 in Ontario, according to the Ministry of Health.
Of those, 277 are being treated in intensive care and 176 require the use of a ventilator to breathe, according to the province's official data.
Ontario's chief medical officer of health, Dr. David Williams, and associate medical officer of health, Dr. Barbara Yaffe, will hold a COVID-19 update on Dec. 29, however they will not be holding their regular provincial updates on Dec. 24, 28 or 31.
The province also said it will not be releasing COVID-19 daily case counts on Dec. 25, Dec. 28 or Jan. 1.