Ontario reported 994 new COVID-19 cases on Thursday and 10 additional deaths, as public health laboratories confirmed their largest count of new cases involving variants of concern to date.

Across the GTA, Toronto reported 298 new cases, York Region reported 64, and Peel reported 171.

Ontario reported 958 new cases on Wednesday, 966 on Tuesday and 1,023 on Monday.

The seven-day rolling average of daily cases now stands at 1,063, down from 1,084 on Wednesday.

Two of the ten new deaths reported involved residents of long-term care homes.

Provincial labs processed 65,643 test specimens in the past 24 hours, generating a positivity rate of at least 2.1 per cent.

Another 42,723 specimens remain under investigation.

Using whole genomic sequencing, labs also confirmed another 92 new coronavirus cases involving variants of concern over the past day, bringing the total confirmed number of variant cases to 678, including 644 cases of the more highly contagious B.1.1.7 variant.

It’s the largest increase in confirmed variant cases reported in Ontario in 2021, though thousands more samples that have screened positive during initial PCR testing still await full confirmation.

Chief Medical Officer of Health for Ontario Dr. David Williams said that in the past eight days, 26 per cent of all positive samples screened positive for a variant of concern.

"This increasing percentage is of concern to us and as we know the modellers said this would occur from the end of February into the end of March," he said, adding the "challenge of the next several weeks" was to keep cases as low as possible as vaccinations begin to scale up.

One Toronto doctor on the frontlines of COVID-19 care said it was not helpful to characterize the situation as variants versus vaccines.

“People frame this as a race between the vaccines and variants, but the variants will win because we don’t have enough vaccines to get herd immunity before the variants become dominant,” Michael Garron Hospital intensivist Dr. Michael Warner told CP24.

Ontario’s Ministry of Health says the number of patients in hospital due to COVID-19 fell over the past 24 hours.

They say there were 649 patients in hospital receiving treatment on Thursday, down from 668 on Wednesday. Of those, 281 were in intensive care and 183 were breathing with the help of a ventilator.

But data from Critical Care Services Ontario obtained by CP24 on Thursday showed there were 326 people in intensive care on Thursday.

“We haven’t gone below 304 since Christmas Day,” Warner told CP24.

“We haven’t had to triage patients which is great but we’re still under a lot of pressure and non-COVID care is not happening to a significant degree in hotspot regions.”

A count of data from hospitals and public health units found there were 845 people in hospital receiving treatment for COVID-19 on Thursday.

Elsewhere in the GTA, Halton Region reported 33 cases, Durham Region reported 23 new cases and Hamilton reported 40 new cases.

The province said it set a new record for administering COVID-19 vaccines on Wednesday, administering more than 30,000 shots.

The Ministry of Health says 784,828 doses have now been administered, and 268,100 people have completed a full two-dose inoculation.

Going forward, growth in the number of full inoculations may slow as Canadian provinces move to space out doses of COVID-19 vaccines up to four months apart.

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.