Ontario is reporting 361 new cases of COVID-19, making today the second straight day in which there has been a slight increase in occurrences of the virus.

On Saturday Ontario saw the number of new cases of COVID-19 fall under the 300 threshold for the first time in nearly six weeks but since then it has confirmed 308 and now 361 new cases, underscoring warnings from public health officials that the decline from the peak of an epidemic is not always an even one.

The Ministry of Health is also reporting another 56 deaths in people who have contracted the virus over the last 24 hours. As of 11 a.m., Ontario’s 34 public health units were reporting a total of 1,761 deaths in COVID-19 patients.

“Last week it (the number of new cases) followed somewhat of the same pattern. It jumped up to the upper 300s and lower 400s (after lower weekend numbers) so if this is our maximum it might be good news but we will have to wait to see what happens as the week goes by,” Ontario’s Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. David Williams said during a briefing at Queen’s Park on Tuesday. “We are still sort of seeing this undulating trend of coming down.”

Ontario has seen an overall decline in the number of confirmed cases of COVID-19 on a daily basis since a record 640 were reported on April 25.

Over the last week an average of 378 new cases have been confirmed every 24 hours, though the number has ranged from 294 to 477, depending on the day.

Williams said that there are also a number of other “positive indicators,” including a reproduction number or R0 that has now fallen below 0.9. That means that each newly infected person is passing the virus on to less than one other person on average.

“The number of positives today is part of that day-to-day variation and we hope to see some continual improvement as the week goes on,” he said.

Decline in testing

It should be noted that the slight increase in new cases comes amid a lower volume of testing, which would point to a higher positivity rate. The province conducted a record 19,227 tests on Friday but that number went down to 17,618 on Saturday, 13,970 on Sunday and now 11,971.

During a news conference at Queen’s Park earlier in the day, Health Minister Christine Elliott blamed the lower turnaround in testing on moving test specimens to laboratories over the weekend.

Premier Doug Ford, however, said a few minutes later that he “didn’t believe in excuses.”

“I don’t believe in excuses. I believe in hitting the numbers. So we want to hit 20,000 (a day), we have everything we need, so we need to hit 20,000, that is the goal. I hear your frustration and I am not disagreeing with it. We will get there,” he said.

Number of people in ICU beds continues to decline

The latest data indicates that hospitalizations continue to hold relatively stable with 1,025 COVID-19 patients currently being treated, though the number of those people in intensive care units is lower than it has been in weeks (192). It had previously reached a record 264 on April 9 but has been slowly trending down since then.

While long-term care homes continue to be at the frontlines of the fight against the virus, Williams said that there is some indication that the virus may have peaked in those settings but he warned that deaths could continue to increase.

There have now been 249 outbreaks at the more than 600 long-term care homes across Ontario. Those outbreaks have resulted 2,972 confirmed cases among residents and 1,558 confirmed cases among staff.

“The number of new cases (in long-term care) have peaked and they are coming down and it looks like, as was predicted, we will see the deaths peaking in either the second or third week of May, though I would say it is a bit premature to conclude that totally because the deaths will always follow after the cases peak,” he said.

The number of recovered patients rose by 260 in the past 24 hours to nearly 74 per cent of all known cases.

There have been 20,907 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Ontario so far

“I don’t know if we are there yet but we certainly are getting there,” infectious disease specialist Dr. Isaac Bogoch said during an interview with CP24 earlier on Tuesday morning. “Ontario is still getting in the 300ish new cases a day. That is significantly better than the 600ish cases we were getting per day so we are definitely headed in the right direction. But I would imagine that we are going to have to give it a least a couple weeks (before restrictions are significantly eased).”

Other highlights from the data:

  • There are now 3,485 confirmed cases among healthcare workers, accounting for more than 16 per cent of all cases
  • Greater Toronto Area public health units now account for 62.1 per cent of all cases
  • There have been 73 outbreaks reported at hospitals
  • A total of 2,650 have been hospitalized with COVID-19 since the beginning of the pandemic, accounting for 12.7 per cent of all cases
  • There have been seven deaths reported in people between the ages of 20 and 39 and no deaths reported in people under the age of 19
  • Travel is now listed as the means of transmission for just 6.9 per cent of all cases. Community transmission, meanwhile, is listed in 36.2 per cent of all cases. The information remains pending for more than a third of all cases.