Ford speaks as Ontario reports 538 new COVID-19 cases, testing backlog hits record high

Premier Doug Ford is holding a news conference at 1 p.m. at Queen’s Park. Ford’s office says he will be joined by the ministers of health and long-term care, as well as Ontario’s chief medical officer of health.

You can watch it live in this story.

Ontario reported another 538 cases of COVID-19 on Thursday, as the province’s backlog of tests waiting to be completed grew to a record high of more than 82,000. 

Nearly 70 per cent of newly confirmed cases are in the Greater Toronto Area. The City of Toronto saw the highest number of cases with 229. Meanwhile Peel and York regions reported 101 and 43, respectively. 

Ottawa also confirmed an additional 66 infections of the novel coronavirus. 

Other areas with double-digit increase include:

  • Durham Region: 14
  • Simcoe Muskoka: 14
  • Waterloo Region: 13

Health Minister Christine Elliott said that about 60 per cent of cases in today’s update are in people under 40 years old. The news comes one day after provincial health officials said that an increase in infections in younger people are starting to “spillover” into older demographics, a reality that could put strain on the province’s hospitals in weeks to come. 

Sixty-five of the new cases are school-related, the ministry says, 29 students, 15 staff and 21 people categorized as “individuals not identified.” There has been a total of 448 school-related cases in Ontario, with 307 of the province’s 4828 publicly-funded schools — or about 6.36 per cent — having reported at least one confirmed case.

Ontario’s network of labs processed 39,646 test samples yesterday. The backlog of tests waiting to be completed grew to more than 82,000, by far the most since the outbreak began in late January. 

People wait in long lineups for a COVID-19 test at a drive through testing centre in Toronto last month. (Evan Mitsui/CBC)

The province’s push to ramp up testing capacity comes as the per cent positivity rate of tests has been steadily increasing. The provincewide average is currently about 1.75 per cent, but in areas such as Toronto and Peel it is approaching nearly 3 per cent, health officials said this week. That means that the novel coronavirus is spreading more widely and more quickly there in recent weeks, they explained.

The number of people in Ontario hospitals with confirmed cases of COVID-19 continued its upward trend as well, and is now 162 — 12 more than in yesterday’s report and nearly double the figure from just a week ago. Thirty-six of those patients are being treated in intensive care, and 17 are on ventilators.

The province’s official death toll grew by three, and now stands at 2,851. A CBC News count, based on information provided directly by public health units, puts the actual current toll at 2,884. 

Ontario has now seen a total of 52,248 confirmed cases of COVID-19, of which about 85 per cent are considered resolved. Another 515 were marked resolved in today’s report. 

There are currently some 4,975 confirmed, active cases of the illness provincewide, the most since April 30.

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