Ontario’s top public health official says that there are now early signs that COVID-19 case counts in the province may be plateauing.

Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. David Williams made the comment during a briefing on Thursday afternoon, hours after the Ministry of Health reported another 3,682 new cases of the disease caused by the novel coronavirus

It was second time in the last three days that Ontario has recorded fewer than 4,000 new cases in a 24-hour period after previously going a week straight with daily case counts in the 4000s.

“We are this very precarious transition time. Are we in a plateau? Some things are plateauing and some things are dipping down a bit,” Williams said. “Our reproductive number has reduced from 1.2 to 1.073. These are indications that we might be starting to bend the curve a bit. But it has not been enough time yet, we are just starting to see the impact of the stay-at-home order and we need to watch it closely.”

Ontario’s rolling seven-day average now stands at 4,176, down from 4,208 at this point last week.

Hospitalizations, however, continue to grow and there are increasing concerns that doctors will soon have to make difficult decisions about which patients to provide the highest level of care to.

On Wednesday the number of COVID-19 patients in intensive care units reached 806, accounting for more than one-third of all available beds.

The number of COVID-19 patients being treated in hospital overall was 2,350, up 15 from one day prior.

Meanwhile, deaths are on the rise with the province reporting 40 fatalities in people who contracted COVID-19 on Wednesday. That is the highest that number has been at any point during the third wave of the pandemic.

“People are frustrated now, I understand but I would just tell the people of Ontario that look we are going to get through this,” Premier Doug Ford said during a virtual press conference on Thursday in Etobicoke, where he was in self-isolation after coming into close contact with a staff member who tested positive for COVID-19. “We will get more vaccines and by the end of this month with the limited supply of vaccines we have had we are going to hit 40 per cent of the population and we are going to continue to build on that as we get more vaccines.”

More than 1,100 new cases in Toronto

More than half of the new cases reported on Thursday were either in Toronto (1,131), Peel (507) or York (436). Elsewhere in the GTA, Halton Region reported 129 cases and Durham Region reported 200.

Meanwhile, all 34 public health units reported at least one case, the first time that has happened in more than a week.

Addressing the situation on Thursday, Ford said that the government “can’t waver” when it “comes to protecting lives and protecting our hospitals” but he said that there are simply “no easy choices left.”

Williams, meanwhile, encouraged Ontarians to keep following the public health restrictions, including the stay-at-home order amid early signs that those measures may be curbing transmission.

“If we keep doing that I am hopeful that over the weekend we may see a further plateauing of our numbers that may indicate that we are starting to get ahead of some of these things,” he said.

“The harder we do this and the better we bend the curve the less people go to the hospitals and the less they fill up our ICUs.”

The latest positive cases come on more than 54,000 tests, positing to a positivity rate of 7.8 per cent.