The number of new cases of COVID-19 has fallen under 200 for the first time in months, marking the continuation of a recent downward trend.

The Ministry of Health says that there were 182 new instances of the virus confirmed on Thursday, which is the lowest number since March 28.

The rolling five-day average of new cases over the last week now stands at 222.

That is compared to the five-day average of 377 new cases that the province saw last week (June 1-5).

Perhaps most encouragingly, the decline in new cases also comes as the province continues to up its testing capacity.

The province’s labs turned around a record 28,335 tests on Thursday. That is about a 16 per cent increase from then-record 24,341 tests that were completed one day prior.

At one point last month the daily testing number had dropped as low as 5,813, prompting the province to release a detailed testing strategy that focuses on targeting groups that are thought to be at a higher risk of infection.

“We have seen numbers go down and spike up but these are pretty low,” Premier Doug Ford said during a press conference at Queen’s Park on Friday afternoon. “I have to admit. These are really positive numbers. But we can’t let our guard down for a second.”

Some regions enter Stage Two today

The latest data comes just as many regions outside of the GTA enter the second stage of the province’s reopening plan, which will allow for restaurant patios to serve customers and some other businesses, such as hair salons and barbershops, to reopen.

At Friday’s press conference, Health Minister Christine Elliott said that half of the province’s 34 public health units actually had no new cases confirmed over the last 24 hours and that 28 of them had five or fewer new cases.

Of the 182 new cases province wide, about 73 per cent of them were reported in the GTA (134).

Toronto accounted for just under half (90) of the new cases. Peel Region had the next most new cases in the GTA with 15.

“Please be patient over the next very short while and we will be opening up the 10 areas (not yet included in Stage Two),” Ford said Friday. “Everyone has to hang in there just a little bit longer. We are making massive strides. We really are.”

Hospitalizations continue to decline

The latest data indicates that there were another 11 deaths involving people who had contracted COVID-19 on Thursday, which is just below the five-day average of 14.

There have been a total of 2,498 deaths province-wide since the start of the pandemic.

By Friday afternoon, Ontario's 34 local public health units reported 2,531 deaths, 33 more than the province reported in the morning, likely due to a lag in the inputting of data.

Hospitalizations, meanwhile, have been on the decline for about a month now and continued that trend on Thursday when there were 11 fewer people receiving treatment (527) compared to one day prior.

Of those people, 114 of them were in Intensive Care Units. That number actually peaked in early April at 264 and has been declining since then.

There were also 302 new recoveries on Thursday as the number of active cases declined to 5,539.

Other highlights from the data:

  • There have been 319 outbreaks in Ontario’s 626 long-term care homes but only 75 of those are still considered active
  • Six more long-term care residents with COVID-19 died over the last 24 hours, bringing the total so far to 1,606
  • There have been 3,862 people hospitalized since the start of the pandemic, accounting for more than 12 per cent of all cases
  • Of those patients, 826 of them have ended up in the ICU at some point (2.6 per cent of all cases)
  • There have been 6 outbreaks in hospitals but only three are still considered active