Ontario is reporting the highest number of COVID-19 hospitalizations in nearly two months and five net new virus-related deaths on Tuesday.

There are currently 1,366 patients with the virus in hospitals across the province, up from 1,091 a week ago, according to the Ministry of Health. Today marks the highest number of hospitalizations since Feb. 16 when 1,403 people were receiving care.

Forty-five per cent of hospital patients were admitted to hospital for COVID-19-related reasons and 55 per cent were admitted for other reasons but also tested positive for the virus, according to the ministry.

Among the latest hospitalizations, 190 are in intensive care, compared to 173 this time a week ago. On Monday Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Kieran Moore says that he expects the number of people in the ICU with COVID-19 will continue to rise and could eventually hit 600 at the peak of this wave. The ministry says 64 per cent of ICU patients were admitted for COVID-19 and 36 per cent were admitted for other reasons and subsequently tested positive for the virus.

Another five deaths that occurred in the past month were added to the province’s COVID-19 death toll today.

The ministry says one death was removed from the cumulative death total, resulting in 12,570 virus-related fatalities since March 2020.

Ontario labs processed nearly 14,200 coronavirus tests in the past 24 hours, producing a positivity rate of 18.7 per cent, compared to 18 per cent a week ago.

The ministry confirmed 2,300 more cases today, but health officials say this continues to be an underestimate due to limited testing.

Last week, the head of Ontario’s COVID-19 science advisory table said there are upwards of 100,000 new cases daily based on wastewater surveillance testing.

Among the latest cases reported today, 1,321 of the individuals received three doses of a COVID-19 vaccine, 525 received two doses, 326 are not fully vaccinated and 128 have an unknown vaccination status.

To date, 90 per cent of Ontarians aged five years and older have received one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine, 86 per cent have received two doses and 51 per cent have received three doses.

Yesterday, Moore said that he is not planning to reinstate mandatory masking in indoor settings but strongly recommends wearing face coverings amid a sixth wave of the pandemic.

“While we will not be reinstating a broad mask mandate at this time, we should all be prepared that we may need to resume a requirement for mask-wearing in indoor public spaces if a new variant of concern emerges, if there is a threat to our health-care system or potentially during the winter months when COVID-19 and other respiratory viruses are likely to circulate again,” he told reporters.

Infectious diseases specialist Dr. Isaac Bogoch has stated that the mask mandate was lifted too early and that people should continue to wear their masks in public indoor settings.

“Just because there's no legal obligation to wear a mask, you still should be wearing a mask, and we've heard it from the top. I don't know if that's going to be enough to change enough people's behavior. Certainly we know that masking helps. It's not perfect, but it helps,” he told CP24 Tuesday morning.

The government lifted mandatory masking in most indoor settings on March 21 but masks are still required in certain high-risk settings, including hospitals, long-term care homes and transit, until at least Apr. 27.

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.