The number of people hospitalized with COVID-19 has declined nearly 20 per cent since this time last week, as the strain on Ontario’s healthcare system continues to ease following a sixth wave of the pandemic.

The latest data from the Ministry of Health reveals that there are now 1,165 people with COVID-19 in Ontario hospitals, including 163 who are being treated in intensive care.

That is down from 1,453 COVID-19 hospitalizations last Friday and 1,662 the week prior.

Other public health indicators are also continuing to improve, weeks after wastewater surveillance started to point to a reduction in viral activity.

Over the last 24 hours the positivity rate on PCR tests was 9.1 per cent, which is the lowest that number has been since Feb. 28.

Outbreaks are also declining in the handful of settings with widespread access to PCR testing.

There are now 162 active outbreaks in long-term care homes, 104 in retirement homes and 77 in hospitals. Last week there were 195 active outbreaks in long-term care homes, 134 in retirement homes and 90 in hospitals.

The latest data comes after Public Health Ontario published a report earlier this week, suggesting that nearly 1,000 cases of a new Omicron COVID-19 subvariant dubbed “BA.2.20” have been detected in the province since February.

The new Ontario-specific subvariant has raised some concerns because of two mutations that make it different from BA.2, but the exact impact of the mutations is not yet known.

Speaking with CP24 on Friday morning, infectious disease specialist Dr. Alon Vaisman said that it does appear that the new subvariant could be more infectious given the increase in the proportion of cases it is being detected in.

However, Vaisman pointed out that it isn’t driving a rise in overall caseloads at this time.

“We know that overall, regardless of a new variant arising here in Ontario, that cases are significantly dropping over the last four weeks and that also goes along with the hospitalization and death associated COVID. So overall, the trajectory is still very good,” he said.

Ontario added another 24 net new deaths to its COVID-19 tally on Friday.

Since the onset of the pandemic more than two years ago, a total of 13, 146 Ontarians have died as a result of contracting the virus.

There have been a total of 1,293,226 lab-confirmed cases over the course of the pandemic, though that number is likely an undercount due to the limited access to PCR testing since December.

The numbers used in this story are found in the Ontario Ministry of Health's COVID-19 Daily Epidemiologic Summary. The number of cases for any city or region may differ slightly from what is reported by the province, because local units report figures at different times.