Ontario reported 1,508 more cases of COVID-19 on Wednesday, one year to the day that an emergency was first declared in the province as the dangers of the global pandemic became clear.
"We're facing an unprecedented time in our history. This is a decision that was not made lightly," Premier Doug Ford said last March.
Today also marks the one-year anniversary of the first COVID-19-linked death reported in Ontario: a 77-year-old man at Royal Victoria Hospital in Barrie.
The province's official COVID-19 death toll now sits at 7,187, including 14 deaths that were reported today.
The new cases include 542 in Toronto, where this morning health workers at three mass vaccinations sites began to administer COVID-19 vaccines to residents aged 80 and above.
The clinics add considerable capacity to the province's immunization campaign, which had another record-high day yesterday with 58,202 doses of vaccines given out. A total of 290,659 people in Ontario have now received both shots of a vaccine, according to the Ministry of Health.
York Region expanding vaccinations to those aged 75+
Meanwhile, York Region said Wednesday it is expanding COVID-19 vaccinations those 75 years of age or older.
Starting at 8:30 a.m. on Thursday, those born in 1946 and earlier can book an appointment for their COVID-19 vaccination at one of the region's seven vaccination clinics by visiting the local online booking website.
"Please do not visit a vaccination clinic without an appointment – you will be turned away," York Region said in a news release Wednesday.
The move comes as another 253 infections were confirmed in Peel Region, while York Region reported 107 cases.
Public health units that saw double-digit increases were:
Simcoe Muskoka: 74
Niagara Region: 66
Thunder Bay: 63
Waterloo Region: 45
Durham Region: 42
Halton Region: 32
Leeds, Grenville and Lanark District: 25
Brant County: 10
(Note: All of the figures used in this story are found on the Ministry of Health'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 on a given day, because local units report figures at different times.)
They come as labs completed 49,128 test samples for SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, and logged a positivity rate of 3.5 per cent.
The seven-day average of daily cases climbed to 1,361.
According to Critical Care Services Ontario (CCSO), a government agency that compiles a daily report for hospitals and health organizations, there were 355 people with COVID-19 in the province's hospitals as of yesterday. Twenty of those patients had been admitted in the previous 24 hours.
Ontario's COVID-19 science advisory table, a group of health experts and scientists that advises the government on its pandemic response, says that the province is now in a third wave.
Driving the latest upward trend are variants of concern (VOCs). As of yesterday, according to the group, VOCs accounted for about 53 per cent of all new cases.
Today's provincial update includes confirmation of three more cases of the B117 variant, first identified in the United Kingdom. There have now been 1,134 cases of B117 identified through whole genomic sequencing, an intensive laboratory process that can result in reporting lags of several weeks.
In reality, 9,652 samples that tested positive for COVID-19 also screened positive for the telltale genetic mutation that indicates the presence of a variant. Thus far, only about 13 per cent of those samples have been identified as a specific variant through whole genomic sequencing.
Just how bad a third wave may be in terms of severe illnesses and deaths is difficult to forecast, experts told CBC Toronto earlier this month, because of unknowns about the variants, the continued rollout of vaccines and the approach of warmer weather.
As for the situation in schools, the Ministry of Education reported another 179 cases: 145 students, 33 staff members and one person who was not identified. Thirty-one, or about 0.64 per cent, of Ontario's 4,828 publicly-funded schools are currently closed due to the illness.