Ontario added another 15 COVID-19 deaths to its cumulative total today as the number of patients in intensive care climbed to 173.

Provincial health officials say there are currently 977 COVID patients receiving treatment in hospital, down from 1,188 on Saturday but up from 763 one week ago. It should be noted that hospitalization numbers are typically lower on Sundays due to a lack of reporting from some hospitals.

The number of COVID-19 patients in intensive care climbed to 173 today, up from 168 on Saturday and 166 last week.

The province does not release detailed hospitalization data on Sundays.

Another 15 virus-related deaths were added to the Ontario's death toll, which now stands at 12,563.The province says 11 of those deaths occurred in the past four months and four occurred more than a month ago.

Another 3,481 new infections were confirmed by provincial labs over the past 24 hours but that number is a significant undercount due to testing restrictions. 

Only 16,816 tests were processed on Saturday, resulting in a positivity rate of 17.6 per cent, officials said.

Of the new cases confirmed today, 450 involve those who are not fully vaccinated, 801 involve people with two doses of a COVID-19 vaccine, 2.051 involve people with three doses, and 179 involve those with an unknown vaccination status.

Earlier this week, Dr. Peter Juni, the scientific director of the province’s Science Advisory Table, said Ontario wastewater data puts the number of new daily infections in Ontario at around 100,000.

The rise in community transmission of COVID-19 in recent weeks has brought about a sixth wave of the pandemic in Ontario, driven by the more transmissible BA.2 Omicron sub-variant. Many experts have called on the province to reinstate mandatory masking in essential public settings in an effort to curb the spread but the Ford government has indicated that it has no intention of reimposing public health restrictions at this time.

A recently released report from Public Health Ontario suggests that the surge in infections in the province is linked to the Ford government’s decision to lift mask mandates in most public settings.

“Close monitoring of epidemiological trends since March 21, 2022 (the date of mask mandates removal) suggests a corresponding temporal association with a subsequent increase in confirmed COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations,” the report published Friday by Public Health Ontario (PHO) read.

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.