Ontario is reporting its highest number of new COVID-19 cases in more than two months as transmission of the virus continues to increase amid a Delta-driven fourth wave of the pandemic.

The Ministry of Health says that there were 650 new cases of the disease caused by the novel coronavirus confirmed by the province’s labs on Thursday, up from 510 at this time last week.

It is the highest number of new cases reported in any single 24-hour period since June 6.

The rolling seven-day average, which better accounts for fluctuations in day-to-day testing volumes, now stands at 518. That’s up nearly 30 per cent from this time last week and a staggering 142 per cent from two weeks ago.

The rate of growth has slowed down from earlier this month when cases were doubling every eight days but the Ontario science table still pegs Ontario’s reproductive number at 1.17. That means that for every 100 people infected they are passing the virus on to approximately 117 other people.

The growth in cases has, in turn, prompted a number of levels of government and businesses to institute mandatory vaccination employees, including the City of Toronto which has given its roughly 37,000 workers until Oct. 30 to be fully immunized.

Toronto’s Medical Officer of Health Dr. Eileen de Villa also issued a directive on Friday “strongly recommending” that all employers in the city to implement their own vaccination policies.

“I think its sensible and I think it is an indication of how seriously we have to take this because we know the one thing that none of us want for sure is to go back to a time when we were having to lock things down or to put a situation in place whereby children at school, children in hospitals or adults are at risk of contracting this virus,” Mayor John Tory told CP24 during an interview on Friday morning. “We've seen in the United States, we've seen in Europe that the vast, vast majority like we're talking 98 or 99 per cent, of people who are hospitalized and those who are dying are people who were not fully vaccinated or weren't vaccinated at all. So if this is the best weapon we have against a Delta variant that is a threat and causing great consternation and problems in Europe and the U.S then we need to be armed against that.”

Hospitalizations slowly rising

The number of people in intensive care units with COVID-19 hit a recent low of 108 earlier this month but has begun to slowly increase in delayed lockstep with the rise in cases.

The ministry says that there are now 135 people in intensive care. Of those people, only five are fully vaccinated. The rest are either unvaccinated, partially vaccinated or their vaccination status is unknown.

There are also 197 COVID-19 patients in hospitals outside of intensive care. That number is up from 136 at this point last week, pointing to an acceleration in admissions compared to earlier this summer.

The latest cases come on more than 28,000 individuals test. That translates into a positivity rate of 2.4 per cent, which is right in line with the seven-day average.

About two-thirds of the latest were in the Greater Toronto Area, including 136 in Toronto, 113 in Peel Region, 63 in York Region, 55 in Hamilton, 25 in Durham Region and 19 in Halton Region. Elsewhere in Ontario, Windsor-Essex had 58 cases and Middlesex-London had 39 cases.

There were also another two deaths reported in individuals who had contracted COVID-19 on Thursday.

Since the beginning of the pandemic, the virus has claimed the life of 9,450 Ontarians.

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.