Ontario confirmed 20 more virus-related deaths on Thursday as the test positivity rate continued to decline.

Ontario labs processed 13,542 tests in the past 24 hours, producing a positivity rate of 8.4 per cent, compared to 9.6 per cent a week ago, according to the ministry.

This is the lowest test positivity rate since Feb. 22 when it was 6.9 per cent.

“By just about every metric, things are getting much, much better from a COVID-19 standpoint in Ontario. The cases are going down, the percent positivity is going down the number of people in hospitals going down, the number of people in the ICU is going down, like everything's headed in the right direction,” Infectious diseases specialist Dr. Isaac Bogoch told CP24 on Friday.

Meanwhile, hospitalizations and ICU occupancy saw a day-over-day drop.

There are currently 1,005 patients with the virus in Ontario hospitals, down from 1,082 yesterday and from 1,207 a week ago.

The ministry says 42 per cent of patients were admitted for COVID-19-related reasons and 58 per cent were admitted for other reasons but subsequently tested positive for the virus.

Of those in hospital, 160 are in intensive care, up three from yesterday but down from a total of 168 patients a week ago.

Sixty per cent of ICU patients were taken to the hospital for COVID-19-related reasons and 40 per cent were admitted for other reasons but also tested positive for the virus.

Although hospitalizations have been declining over the past month, Bogoch says the healthcare system is still overwhelmed due to a lack of staff.

“Over the last two years there have been a lot of people that have left the profession. It's just much, much harder these days to staff beds and if you talk to probably any hospital administrator on any ward in any hospital, I guarantee they're going to have the same issues and they'll discuss these same issues,” he said.

The Ministry of Health says the 20 deaths reported today occurred in the past month and three are long-term care home residents.

The province has confirmed 13,195 virus-related deaths since March 2020.

Provincial officials logged 1,217 more infections today but they say that is an undercount due to limited access to PCR testing.

Among the latest cases, 830 of the individuals have received three doses of a vaccine, 200 have received two doses, 118 are partially or unvaccinated and 69 have an unknown vaccination status.

Yesterday the province administered 21,100 vaccine doses across the province.

To date, 90 per cent of Ontarians aged five years and older have received one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine, 87 per cent have received two doses and 52 per cent have received three doses.

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.