More than 1,700 new cases of COVID-19 have been confirmed in Ontario today along with 35 more deaths, a tie for the highest single-day death toll since the start of the second wave of the pandemic.

Provincial health officials logged 1,723 new infections today, up from the 1,707 recorded on Tuesday and the 1,373 confirmed one week ago.

With more than 44,000 tests completed over the past 24 hours, the province’s positivity rate now stands at 4.7 per cent when factoring in duplicates and errors in testing.

That number is down from 5.1 per cent on Tuesday but on par with the positivity rate at this point last week.

Of the new infections reported today, 410 were in Toronto, 500 were in Peel Region, 196 were in York Region, 124 were in Durham Region, and 103 were in Waterloo.

Thirty-five COVID-19 related deaths were confirmed in the province today, a tie for the highest death toll recorded in a single day in Ontario during the second wave of the pandemic.

Provincial health officials say 22 of those deaths involve patients in long-term care homes.

The rolling seven-day average of new cases in Ontario has been steadily climbing over the past month and is now 1,719, up from 1,389 just one week ago.

Virus-related hospitalizations are up to 656 today but intensive care admissions dropped by two down to 183, according to data provided by the province.

A count of local public health units and individual hospitals puts the number of hospitalizations at 663.

Dr. Michael Warner, the medical director of critical care at Michael Garron Hospital, told CP24 Tuesday that some GTA hospitals are starting to see a surge in COVID-19 patients in intensive care units (ICU).

In York and Halton regions, he said, close to 24 per cent of all patients in the ICU are infected with COVID-19 and at some Toronto hospitals, that number is closer to 40 per cent.

In Peel Region, hospitals are starting to care for patients in “non-traditional” spaces due to the influx of COVID-19 patients, that region’s chief medical officer of health told CP24 on Wednesday.

Experts have said ICU occupancy of more than 150 in Ontario challenges the health-care system’s ability to keep up with scheduled surgeries and other elective procedures.

Hospitals not 'in crisis,' health minister says

On Wednesday, Ontario Health Minister Christine Elliott said while there are certain hospitals that are under “stress” right now, she denied the assertion from members of the opposition that Ontario hospitals are in a “crisis” situation.

“There is no question that many Ontario hospitals are under stress right now, particularly in the lockdown areas,” she said, noting that both Scarborough General Hospital and William Osler Health System have been forced to cancel some non-emergency surgeries and procedures.

“To say they are in crisis is not the case. Alberta is in crisis when you have to have double cohorts in a single intensive care room. That’s a crisis. We are not at that stage in Ontario.”

Elliott said the province has worked to “build capacity” in hospitals to deal with the second wave of the pandemic.

“What we are really trying to do in dealing with that backlog in surgeries and procedures is take a more regional look at it,” Elliott added.

“If there is one hospital that might not be able to deal with those volumes of surgeries and procedures but there is another hospital in the same region that is able to do that we want to be able to continue that process as much as possible because we know there are significant, very important surgeries.”

Elliott confirmed Tuesday that officials planning for the rollout of COVID-19 vaccines across Ontario are now speaking directly to the manufacturers of seven different vaccine candidates that have signed deals with the federal government, including Pfizer, to get a better idea of when the province can expect to receive the first doses.

Elliott has previously said that Ontario expects to receive a combined 2.4 million doses of the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines by March, a figure the federal government has not publicly confirmed.

Neither of those vaccines have been green lit by Health Canada but Pfizer's COVID-19 vaccine was approved for emergency use in the United Kingdom on Wednesday.

Elliott has said the first shipment of vaccines will be used to inoculate the province's most vulnerable populations, including residents of long-term care homes.

Once priority groups are protected, widespread rollout of the vaccine will follow.

Speaking to CP24 on Wednesday morning, Epidemiologist Dr. Isaac Bogoch said while the latest developments on the vaccine front are positive, he cautioned that even when a vaccine arrives in Canada, people should not expect for things to immediately return to normal.

"We are so excited about returning to normalcy and getting a vaccine and forgetting that this whole thing ever happened but in all fairness, we will still be physically distancing from one another. We still will be wearing masks throughout much but not all of 2021," he said.

"As we see larger and larger and larger segments of the population vaccinated, I think then we'll start to see the gradual lifting of some of the measures. For example, I think we'll probably start to see larger crowds allowed to gather together. Perhaps the border restrictions will loosen up."

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau previously told reporters that he expects most Canadians who want to be vaccinated will be able to do so by September 2021.

New cases in the GTA:

Toronto: 410

Peel Region: 500

York Region: 196

Durham Region: 124

Halton Region: 45