Ontario’s top public health official says that there are early signs that new cases of COVID-19 may have “plateaued” but he is warning that we will still have to get down below 1,000 cases a day in order for the lockdown to be lifted.

Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. David Williams made the comment during a briefing on Monday afternoon, hours after the Ministry of Health reported 2,578 new cases of COVID-19 and 24 new deaths.

He said that in order to begin to open things up, the number of people in the ICU will have to decline from more than 400 to about 150, which would allow elective procedures to resume at most hospitals. He said that there will also have to be no more than 1,000 new cases of COVID-19 a day in order to ensure that hospital capacity can be protected.

“If you do that knowing the different numbers and per cents that usually get admitted to hospital and how many of those end up in the ICU you get a general sense that you have to get somewhere around or below 1,000 new cases a day,” he said. “It was only a few months ago, the end of October that we were there, and we can get back there I believe.”

The 2,578 new cases of COVID-19 reported on Monday is the lowest number in any 24 hour period since Jan. 1.

The seven-day average now stands at 3,074, which is down 10 per cent from this time last week (3,394).

Approximately 421 people have died of novel coronavirus infection in the past seven days. Fourteen of the 24 deaths reported on Monday involved residents of the long-term care system.

Monday’s case total is the lowest Ontario has seen since Jan. 1.

There are now 28,621 active cases of infection across the province, down from a peak of 30,141 six days ago.

Provincial labs processed 40,301 test specimens, generating a positivity rate of at least 6.6 per cent. A further 18,481 specimens remained under investigation on Monday.

The number of tests processed is the lowest Ontario labs have completed in a 24-hour period since Jan. 5.

More than 400 patients are receiving care in intensive care for COVID-19 symptoms across the province, with the number of intubated patients climbing by 10 to 303 on Monday.

Toronto’s Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Eileen de Villa told the city’s Board of Health Monday that existing intensive care units in the city will reach capacity by the end of January.

There were a total of 1,571 patients admitted to hospitals across Ontario for novel coronavirus infection on Monday, up one from Sunday.

Meanwhile the number of long-term care homes facing an outbreak of COVID-19 grew by 2 to 248 of Ontario’s 626 facilities.

Of the new cases 815 are in Toronto, 507 are in Peel, 151 are in York Region, 151 are in Niagara Region and 121 are in Hamilton.

Elsewhere in the GTA, Halton Region reported 79 new cases and Durham Region reported 76 new cases.

The province says it administered 9,691 more COVID-19 vaccine doses in the past 24 hours, bringing the total to 209,788.

More than 21,000 people have received the full two-dose regimen.