Premier Doug Ford is expressing confidence in the lockdown measures that have been taken in Toronto and Peel, even as the province posts another record number of new COVID-19 infections.

The Ministry of Health says that there were 1,855 new cases of the disease caused by the novel coronavirus confirmed on Thursday as well as another 20 deaths, 13 of which involving residents of long-term care homes.

That is a sizeable increase on the previous daily record of 1,588 cases but it coincides with a massive jump in testing. The province’s labs were able to turn around 58,037 individual tests on Thursday, which is nearly 10,000 more than the previous high of 48,488 that was set back on Oct. 8.

As a result, the ministry says that the positive percentage for the last 24 hours was actually 3.7 per cent, which is the lowest it has been in more than a week.

Speaking with reporters during his daily COVID-19 briefing on Friday, Ford conceded that the jump in new cases is alarming but said that the number do not yet reflect the lockdown that went into place in Toronto and Peel on Monday.

“We are confident. Anywhere around the world when they have measures like this they see the numbers go down. You know there has been a lot of celebrations over the last couple of weeks and we will have a better idea if this is working or not as we move forward. But I truly believe it is working because how can you put a number on us not doing it,” he said. “If everyone was just out there not following protocols and guidelines it could be a lot worse.”

Today’s record number of new cases represents a 25 per cent increase from yesterday’s number (1,478 new cases) and pushes the seven-day average up to 1,489.

That number had stood at 1,372 at this point last week and 1,355 one week prior (Nov. 13) as cases temporarily flatlined following a significant surge at the beginning of November.

But they may be rising again.

Of the new cases confirmed on Friday, more than half involved residents in either Toronto (494 new cases) or Peel (517). York had 189 new cases, Halton had 130, Durham had 65 and Hamilton had 82.

The hotspot for infection outside the GTA was Waterloo with 74 new cases.

Meanwhile, just four of Ontario’s 34 public health units reported no new cases at all. As recently as this summer more than half of Ontario’s public health units were regularly reporting no new cases.

“It is not necessarily just because of the increase in the number of tests that we are seeing the increase in the number of cases. We expected that there would be an increase (in cases),” Health Minister Christine Elliott acknowledged during Friday’s briefing. “Since Peel and Toronto were put into lockdown it is going to take probably two full weeks before we start to see some of those numbers go down. We are still seeing the results from some of the events that have happened and some of the celebrations that have happened in the last few weeks.”

Record number comes following release of new modelling

The latest numbers come one day after the release of new modelling, which seemed to suggest that the province is no longer following the dire trajectory it appeared to be on earlier this month when officials warned that we could be at 6,500 daily cases by mid-December.

The new modelling laid out three scenarios for future case growth, one that would see Ontario hit 2,000 daily cases by the end of December, another that would see it get to 4,000 daily cases by that point and a third “worst case scenario” that would see Ontario reach 9,000 daily cases.

Speaking with CP24 prior to the release of the latest numbers on Friday morning, Infectious disease specialist Dr. Issac Bogoch said there is “evidence that perhaps we are maybe flattening the curve” but he said that the position we are in is “precarious” given the extraordinarily high number of new cases we continue to see.

“There may be early, early signs that things are levelling off. If so fantastic. But on the other hand we really are walking on a tightrope here. Because if we do see increased growth we will be stretching our healthcare system and we know how dangerous that can be,” he said.

The modelling released on Thursday warned that the province will have more than 200 COVID patients in intensive care units by December in any scenario, threatening the ability of some hospitals to perform elective surgeries and procedures.

In the data released Friday, the ministry said that there are now 151 COVID patients in ICU units, including 101 people that are breathing with the assistance of a ventilator.

The number of people in the ICU peaked at 264 in April but that was with all hospitals suspending elective surgeries and procedures, something the province is hoping to avoid this time around.

“While it great that we are not shooting up with exponential growth it is hard to absorb these numbers of new cases per day,” Bogoch warned on Friday. “This is still going to have a significant impact on the healthcare system and there is still a lot of people that are going to get sick.”

Following the release of the latest data on Friday the province also moved five regions into new levels in its colour-coded framework for COVID-19 restrictions.

Windsor-Essex will be moved into the red zone as of Monday while the Haldimand-Norfolk Health Unit will be moved into the orange zone. The Hastings Prince Edward Public Health, the Lambton Public Health and the Northwestern Health Unit will all be moved into the yellow zone.