Ontario reported 60 new deaths due to COVID-19 on Wednesday – the highest daily death toll reported in nearly a year – as overall hospital admissions fell and ICU occupancy increased only slightly.

The last time daily deaths reached this level was on Feb. 4, 2021 when 88 deaths were reported.

There have now been 10,726 deaths in the province since March 2020. Two-hundred and eighty-one Ontario residents have died of COVID-19 in the past seven days.

All but one of the deaths reported on Wednesday occurred in the past 30 days. Seven involved residents of long-term care.

Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Kieran Moore said his office is “checking whether deaths are causative or associated with COVID-19,” through the death certification process.

He said that he believes many of the deaths are related to infections caused by the Delta variant prior to the rise of Omicron in late December, but there is little actual data to show this.

The Ministry of Health said 4,132 people were in hospital with COVID-19, a decrease of 51 from the record-level of occupancy the day before, and 589 people were in intensive care, an increase of nine in 24 hours.

Of those in ICU, 341 were breathing with a ventilator, an increase of four from the previous day.

UHN infectious diseases specialist Dr. Isaac Bogoch said that it appears to him the hospital situation has peaked.

“I do think that we have peaked in many parts of Ontario, we’re probably on the downswing but of course you cannot ignore that hospitalizations are as high as they have ever been and the ICUs; there are more than 500 people in Ontario ICUs,” he told CP24. “We may not have turned the corner but we are turning the corner.”

With Ontario Premier Doug Ford suggesting restrictions could be relaxed soon, Bogoch urged the province to do so in a “methodical” fashion that is “data-driven.”

But data has been a challenge since the province restricted access to COVID-19 testing to the majority of residents on Dec. 30, 2021.

Ontario COVID-19 Science Table director Dr. Peter Jüni said testing access remains so constrained it clouds the ability for him and his colleagues to effectively model it.

“Right now nobody knows exactly – I assume we’re able to get one in 10 or if we’re really lucky one in five cases into our statistics,” he told CP24.

They’re turning to wastewater surveillance and other methods to chart the prevalence of infection, but it is imperfect at best.

Last week, the province loosened testing access to include those who are pregnant, first responders, and unvaccinated senior citizens at high risk of a serious outcome if they become infected.

Provincial labs processed 34,579 test specimens, generating an overall positivity rate of 22 per cent.

Of Wednesday’s 5,744 new cases confirmed through PCR testing, the Ministry of Health said 880 involved unvaccinated people, 186 involved partially vaccinated people 4,109 involved fully vaccinated individuals and 569 involved people with an unknown vaccination history.

The province says more than 103,000 COVID-19 vaccine doses on Tuesday, including 7,993 first doses, 8,864 second doses and 85,992 third doses.

Across all age groups, 83.8 per cent of residents have at least one dose of COVID-19 vaccine, 78.3 per cent have two doses and 38.6 per cent of people have three doses.

Among those 5-11, now returning to school for the first time in over one month, 50.1 per cent of kids have one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine and 7.1 per cent have two 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.