Ontario reported 23 new deaths on Monday as new hospital admissions and transfers to intensive care appeared to show early signs they were levelling off.

The Ministry of Health said there were 3,887 people in hospital with COVID-19, with 578 people in intensive care.

Monday’s occupancy level is relatively similar to Sunday’s with the caveat that some hospitals do not report COVID-related occupancy on weekends.

But an additional 43 patients began mechanical ventilation in the past 24 hours, increasing the total of ventilated patients to 343.

Twenty-two of Monday’s deaths occurred in the last month and one was detected among deaths that occurred more than one month ago.

Two deaths involved residents of long-term care, among 10,628 confirmed deaths to date.

“After 12 days of public health measures, we are making a dent on the number of people needing hospital care,” Chief Medical Officer Dr. Kieran Moore told CP24.

Moore said hospitalizations are nearing an overall “plateau,” and the rate of growth in admissions appears to be slowing.

“The rate of growth in the number of people in our hospitals (with COVID-19) is slowing down,” he said.

Meanwhile, others are skeptical the province has the data necessary to even plot where we are in the Omicron wave.

“It’s harder to know because all of those (PCR) tests are focused on priority areas – but there are some early clues that perhaps our case number is perhaps going down,” UHN infectious diseases specialist Dr. Isaac Bogoch said. “But we have to remember that hospitalizations and ICU admissions are a lagging indicator.”

He said that a decline of positivity from 31 per cent to roughly 20 per cent over the past two weeks doesn’t necessarily indicate population-level improvement.

“It’s hard to know exactly where we are because we don’t have that degree of testing,” Bogoch said, referring to major curbs on free testing access that began on Dec. 31, 2021.

Later on Monday, Health Canada announced it has approved Pfizer's Paxlovid antiviral pill for treatment of COVID-19.

Ontario Premier Doug Ford told CP24 the province will receive 10,000 courses of the treatment, to be delivered sometime this month.

Up to 15 hospitals will administer the drugs to outpatients with mild infections who are otherwise at high risk of serious complications due to COVID-19.

Provincial labs processed 37,000 tests in the previous period, the fewest number of tests processed in more than one month, generating a positivity rate of 24.2 per cent.

A total of 8,521 new cases were detected on Monday, but access to free testing is extremely limited and does not reflect spread in the general community.

Among cases confirmed on Monday, 1,250 involved unvaccinated people, 281 involved partially vaccinated people, 6,511 involved fully vaccinated people and 479 involved people with an unknown vaccination status.

Indoor dining and other activities banned in Ontario on Jan. 5 are tentatively scheduled to resume on Jan. 26.

Asked if the province can stick to that timeline, Moore said “I do see us further opening our economy in the coming weeks.”

He said the Ford cabinet would meet to discuss the situation and possibly issue a decision.

“I expect a decision of government this week.”

The province says more than 67,000 COVID-19 vaccine doses were administered on Sunday, including 6,900 first doses, 7,060 second doses and 53,140 third doses.

Across all age groups, 83.8 per cent of residents have had at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine, 78.2 per cent have two doses and 37.8 per cent have 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.