Ontario health officials said they hope to be testing 5,000 people per day for COVID -19 by the end of the week as the province reported 135 new cases and three more deaths Friday.

There are now 967 active cases of novel coronavirus infection in the province, eight clinically-confirmed recoveries and 18 deaths.

The new count is lower than Thursday’s disclosure, the first dip in daily case growth in weeks.

Ontario reported 170 new cases on Thursday, 100 on Wednesday and 85 on Tuesday.

Dr. David Williams, Ontario’s chief medical officer of health, told reporters at a daily briefing Friday that he was surprised that the number of new cases today was lower than yesterday.

“I am pleasantly surprised,” Williams said. “I would say that’s OK. Let’s see how we do.”

On Thursday, Williams had warned that Ontario’s daily count of new cases could surpass 200 by the end of the weekend. He said Friday that while the latest number is better than expected, the province remains in a “critical” period in its efforts to flatten the curve of new infections.

“This is the second week of the critical two weeks I was talking about,” Williams said. “People should not get casual.”

He urged people to continue following public health advice to physically distance themselves from others by at least six feet at all times wherever possible.

“Let’s keep at it. We’re not through this yet. It’s not a sprint, but a marathon,” Williams said.

Two of the three most recent deaths occurred at a nursing home in Bobcaygeon, Ont., where two residents died late Thursday and a total of 16 nurses and other staff members tested positive for the virus. While those two cases were not lab-confirmed, public health officials counted them as COVID-19 because there was a known outbreak of the virus at the home.

A York Region woman in her 80s is also among those included in the latest count of Ontarians who have died from the virus.

The province did not release detailed case information for each new patient on Friday, saying all information was pending completion of investigations by public health units.

While the virus is mainly thought to severely affect people over 70, an Oshawa Superstore worker in his 40s who died of COVID-19 this week had no underlying health conditions, said Dr. Barbara Yaffe, Ontario’s associate chief medical officer of health. It’s still not clear how he contracted the virus.

In terms of tracking how people acquired COVID-19, Yaffe said case data is still missing for 40 per cent of cases, a figure she called concerning. She attributed the missing data mainly to people not being able to fully recollect where they had been and who they had interacted with over the past 14 days.

“They obviously got it from somebody else and they got it from somebody else in the community where they live and where they’ve been in the 14 days before they became ill,” Yaffe said.

“It’s of concern obviously and it’s something that we’re working with the health units to try and increase their ability to do more contact follow-up, try and do more case management, because this is the basic bread and butter of communicable disease control.”

Williams also said Friday that he expects Ontario’s testing capacity to jump from its current 3,500 tests a day to 5,000 tests per day by the end of the weekend when quality checks have been completed on several satellite labs.

He said the province is also looking at the possibility of using university labs to expand testing capacity.

Yaffe said the number of cases where the patient is considered to have recovered is also expected to jump sharply in the coming days.

“We do expect the number of resolved cases to go up well over 200 over the next few days,” Yaffe said.

That owes in part to a shift in the way the province counts recoveries.

While lab testing was required to confirm recovery in the early days of the pandemic, Ontario is now conserving test kits for people with new infections. So the province has started counting people as recovered 14 days after the onset of symptoms so long as they no longer feel ill and were never hospitalized.


By The Numbers:

Total number of cases recorded in Ontario so far: 993

Number of people currently in hospital with COVID-19: 60

Number of those people in intensive care: 43, with 32 on ventilators

How people got it: 40% of cases – data missing; 34% - travel; 10% - close contact with a confirmed case; 16% - community transmission

Most common point of exposure for travellers: The Unites States, followed by Europe

Number of health care workers who have acquired COVID-19: 29. However it is not clear how many contracted the virus on the job, as that number includes people who got it through travel or close contact with confirmed cases

Tests completed in last 24 hours: 3,327 (up from 2,439) Provincial officials say daily testing capacity will reach more than 18,000 per day by mid-April.

Persons under investigation (awaiting test results): 10,074 (Down from nearly 11,000)

Ontarians approved for testing to date: 41,032