Ontario is reporting fewer than 800 new cases of COVID-19 for the second day in a row and the province’s top public health official says that there may now be some “evidence of plateauing” in the daily counts.

The Ministry of Health says that there were 704 new cases of the disease caused by the novel coronavirus confirmed on Sunday.

It is a slight increase on the 658 cases confirmed one day prior but comes on about 9,000 fewer tests, pointing to a much higher positivity rate of 2.2 per cent.

In fact, the 31,864 tests conducted on Sunday represents the lowest number reported on any one day in weeks. It is also well below the province’s goal of conducting about 50,000 tests each day.

The good news, however, is that the growth in cases may be slowing down after doubling every 10 to 12 days throughout much of September.

The seven-day rolling average of new cases now stands at 732.7. That is virtually identical to the seven-day rolling average at this point last week, which was 733.

“We have taken some measures and we are seeing some evidence of plateauing but we are not out of it yet,” Ontario’s Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. David Williams said during a press conference on Monday afternoon. “We have given 28 days (for the Stage 2 restrictions) with the first group of hot zones and now York (Region) one week later and we would like to see that (cases) down quite a bit.”

Modelling released by the Ford government last month had projected that there would be 1,000 daily cases by this point but Williams said that was based on doing nothing and did not take the new restrictions for Toronto, Peel, Ottawa and York into effect.

Speaking with reporters during a briefing later in the day, Associate Medical Officer of Health Dr. Barbara Yaffe said that those new restrictions may be having some impact, as officials are now seeing outbreaks “more frequently in the adjacent areas.”

“We are very closely monitoring all other regions in the province, particularly those with higher and increasing case counts, including Halton Region, Eastern Ontario and Hamilton,” she said.

Deaths continue to increase

While case counts may have plateaued deaths continue to slowly increase albeit on a delayed basis.

On Monday, there were four more fatalities added to the province’s death toll, pushing it to 3,050

Over the last seven days there has been average of six new deaths, though the individual count has ranged from zero to 10 depending on the day.

It is a far cry from the more than 80 daily deaths that the province was reporting in April when the virus was running rampant through hundreds of long-term care homes but nonetheless represents an alarming increase from this summer when there was often only a handful of deaths attributed to COVID-19 each week.

“I think it is important tor remember that hospitalization and death is a late outcome and just because you have a high number of cases and a low number of hospitalizations and deaths does not mean there won’t be hospitalizations and deaths,” infectious disease expert Dr. Issac Bogoch warned during an interview with CP24 on Monday morning. “It eventually happens and in fact, that is what we are seeing now unfortunately. If you sort of take a step back and look at our provincial data hospitalizations were really, really low in the summer months and they are slowly, slowly starting to climb but they certainly are climbing and it is the same with deaths.”

More than three out of four new cases are in GTA

More than three-quarters of the 704 new cases reported on Monday occurred in the GTA, including 244 in Toronto, 168 in Peel Region, 103 in York Region, 23 in Halton Region and 16 in Durham Region.

The virus, however, does appear to be gaining a foothold in other parts of Ontario as well.

On Monday, just seven of Ontario’s 34 public health units reported no new cases of COVID-19 over the last 24 hours with most of them concentrated in Northern Ontario.

This summer, roughly half of Ontario’s public health units regularly reported no new cases.

Those regions included places like Waterloo, where an outbreak at Wilfrid Laurier University has now been blamed for at least 19 separate cases.

Other highlights from the data:

  • There are 252 COVID patients listed in hospital, including 69 in the ICU. The province says those numbers may increase as it is missing data from 30 hospitals.
  • There were four new outbreaks reported in long-term care homes over the last 24 hours. The total number of active outbreaks in that sector is now 77.
  • The number of active cases has now exceed 6,000 province-wide, which is the highest that number has ever been.
  • The plurality of new cases were in the age 20 to 39 demographic (264) but there was nearly as many cases in the age 40 to 59 demographic (200). There was also 22 new cases in the oldest age demographic tracked by the province (80 and above).
  • Ottawa had the highest number of cases of any region outside the GTA (51).