Ontario is reporting its highest number of deaths in COVID-19 patients in any 24-hour period since the spring.

The Ministry of Health says that 45 people who had tested positive for COVID-19 died on Thursday, marking a tragic new high for the second wave of the pandemic.

The total includes 29 residents of long-term care homes, where there are now 137 active outbreaks.

The last time there were 45 fatalities in a single day was June 4 and you have to go back to May 12 to find a day when the death toll exceeded that number.

Meanwhile, the number of new cases in the province continues to steadily increase albeit not at the rate we were seeing last month when lockdown orders were first put in place in Toronto and Peel.

On Friday, the ministry reported another 1,848 new cases of the disease caused by the novel coronavirus. That is down from the record 1,983 cases reported one day prior but it is up from the 1,780 cases reported last Friday.

The province’s rolling seven-day average is now 1,872, up 6.5 per cent from this time last week when it stood at 1,757.

The number of patients hospitalized with COVID-19 did decrease over the last 24 hours and now stands at 808 but more of them are in the ICU – 235 – than one day prior.

That number is now up 16 per cent over the past week and is inching closer to the first wave peak in April, when 264 patients were in the ICU at one point.

“When we are seeing 1,600 to 1,900 new cases a day that is a lot of cases to absorb. Yes, the vast majority of those people who are infected per day will be able to recover in the comfort of their own homes but some of those individuals will be sick enough to come to hospital, some of those individuals will be sick enough to land them in the ICU and some of those individuals are sadly going to succumb to this illness and many of these individuals are going to sadly pass on the infection to other close contacts,” infectious disease specialist Dr. Issac Bogoch told CP24 on Friday morning. “It is troubling, it is very troubling and I know that vaccines are on the near horizon but they are not here yet.”

Record number of tests

About half of the new cases occurred in either Toronto (469) or Peel Region (386).

But the spread of the virus continues to accelerate in other parts of the GTHA with York Region reporting 205 new cases, Halton reporting 57, Durham reporting 91 and Hamilton reporting 58.

Windsor continues to be the major hotspot for infection outside the GTA, adding 106 new cases over the last 24 hours.

If there is good news to be found in the latest data it is that the province set a new record for testing for the second consecutive day as it turned around 63,051 individual specimens.

As a result, the ministry says that the positivity rate was just 3.2 per cent. That is the lowest that number has been since Nov. 1.

Since the beginning of the pandemic in March there have been more than 130,000 lab-confirmed cases and nearly 4,000 deaths.

The number of active cases is 16,283.

“We are starting to hear that many hospitals in the GTA are getting pinched and it is not going to get any better through December and January if we don’t do anything,” Bogoch warned on Friday.