Ontario is reporting more than 3,400 new cases of COVID-19 today as the number of coronavirus patients in intensive care dips for the second day in a row.

Provincial health officials logged 3,436 new infections today, down from 3,732 new cases on Sunday but up from 3,369 confirmed on Saturday.

The rolling seven-day average of new infections has declined week-over-week, from 3,917 last Monday to 3,577 today.

With 33,179 tests processed over the past 24 hours, the provincewide test positivity rate is now 9.7 per cent, the Ministry of Health says. That is down from 10.9 per cent at this point last week.

Another 16 virus-related deaths were confirmed today, bringing the average daily death toll to 30, unchanged from last Monday.

For the second consecutive day, the number of COVID-19 patients in intensive care units in the province declined.

According to the Ministry of Health, there are currently 1,925 COVID-19 patients receiving treatment in Ontario hospitals and of those people, 889 are in the ICU, down from 895 on Sunday and 900 on Saturday.

The number of active, lab-confirmed infections in Ontario is now 36,997, down from 40,586 last week.

Of the new cases confirmed today, 985 are in Toronto, 714 are in Peel Region, 351 are in York Region, 271 are in Durham Region and 194 are in Hamilton.

"Our indicators are moving and our new cases, we’ve been under 4,000 for the last nine days. We’ve been in the low 3,000s and we hope we can stay there and it would be nice if we could see this actually drop below 3,000 in the week ahead," Dr. David Williams, Ontario's chief medical officer of health, said at a news conference on Monday afternoon. 

"We are plateauing and coming down slowly at a very high level and this is no time to be causal."

Starting today, Ontario residents aged 18 and older who live or work in one of 114 hot spot postal codes are eligible to book their first shot through the provincial portal. For the next two weeks, the province is diverting 50 per cent of all incoming doses to hot spot communities in an effort to vaccinate people in neighbourhoods most impacted by the novel coronavirus.

Third wave 'stabilizing'

Dr. Alon Vaisman, an infectious diseases specialist at the University Health Network,  said believes the change in the province's vaccination strategy will help drive down cases more quickly.

"When you are targeting the people who are most affected by the pandemic and providing vaccinations to them, then you are more likely to see a drop in cases much faster as a result," he told CP24 on Monday afternoon. 

He added that the third wave of the pandemic appears to be stabilizing in Ontario.

"We've already seen a peak in the total number of cases about two weeks ago in Ontario as well as a peak in the hospitalizations about a week ago. And this rollout of the vaccine to these individuals will help bring that down even faster," Vaisman said. 

"The ICU numbers, it's a little bit early to tell, but looks like they have perhaps reached a peak, perhaps they are plateauing over the last three days."

He noted that vaccinations will be the key to bringing the situation under control.

"To be able to bring the case numbers down very quickly, to be able to get out of the third wave, the vaccinations are really the most important part," he said.

"Because the public has suffered a lot from the lockdowns, from the restrictions, prolonging the restrictions, prolonging the lockdown, is going to be very challenging for many people. So hopefully with the vaccine rollout being very rapid, case numbers can come down and those restrictions can be lifted sooner. But of course all of that needs to be done very carefully."

Dr. Isaac Bogoch, an infectious diseases expert and member of Ontario's COVID-19 vaccine distribution task force, said people must still follow all public health measures until they receive their second dose.

"A single dose still provides you with some degree of protection but of course not the same degree as two doses," Bogoch told CP24 on Monday morning.

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.