Ontario is reporting its lowest number of new cases of COVID-19 so far this week but the drop comes amid a rise in fatalities, with nine more added to the province’s death toll over the last 24 hours.

The Ministry of Health says that there were 712 new cases of the disease caused by the novel coronavirus confirmed on Thursday, down from 783 on Wednesday.

It is the fourth day in a row that the number of new cases has dipped below 800 and represents a significant decline on the record 939 infections reported on Oct. 9.

Deaths, however, continue to rise.

On Friday, the Ministry of Health confirmed that there were another nine people who died from COVID-19 over the last 24 hours, including five residents of long-term care homes.

There was also nine deaths reported on Monday but prior to that it had been months since the fatality number had reached that threshold on any single day.

“We have heard about overrepresentation of people in their 20s with this infection in June, July, August and even now but the issue is that it doesn’t stay within a particular geographic location and it doesn’t stay in a particular age cohort and as we are watching the virus move into older and older age groups we are also seeing that corresponding rise in hospitalizations and sadly deaths,” infectious disease specialist Dr. Isaac Bogoch told CP24 on Friday morning. “So we really need to ensure that we have very good community control of this virus because we know that it is so contagious and we don’t live in hermetically sealed bags, it is hard to keep this restricted to a particular age group or a particular geographic location and as we see it move into more vulnerable populations there will be a rise in hospitalizations and deaths.”

261 people in hospital

More than two-thirds of the 712 new cases confirmed on Friday were in the GTA, including 213 in Toronto, 135 in Peel, 62 in York, 27 in Durham and 46 in Halton.

There was also another 108 new cases in Ottawa.

Meanwhile, hospitalizations continue to steadily rise.

On Friday, the Ministry of Health said there were 261 COVID-19 patients being treated in Ontario hospitals, up from 253 one day prior.

Of those patients, 67 are being treated in intensive care units and 36 are breathing with the assistance of the ventilator.

During the peak of the first wave of the pandemic in April there were 1,043 people in hospital, including 264 in the ICU.

“In all of our scenarios now, both best case and worst case the number of patients in the ICU crosses the 150 threshold within next 30 days,” Dr. Adalsteinn Brown, Dean of the Dalla Lana School of Public Health at the University of Toronto, warned last week, noting that routine surgeries would likely be impacted yet again.

Numbers have remained short of provincial projections so far

The 712 new cases of COVID-19 confirmed on Friday actually represents a decline on the seven-day average, which now stands at 746.

Encouragingly, the numbers also continue to remain below projections that the province made last month, when it released modelling that suggested there would be more than 1,000 cases a day by mid-October.

That said the positivity rate remains alarmingly high. Friday’s data pegs it at 1.8 per cent across Ontario but in some regions like Toronto it regularly exceeds three per cent.

Other highlights from the data:

  • There were 38,507 tests completed over the last 24 hours.
  • The number of recoveries exceeded the number of new cases by one on Friday. There are now 5,873 active cases across Ontario.
  • There were five new outbreaks declared at long-term care homes on Friday, bringing the total number of active outbreaks in that setting to 69.
  • There were also two new outbreaks confirmed in hospitals on Friday, brining the total number of active outbreaks in that setting to 10.
  • Nine of Ontario’s 34 public health units reported no new cases on Friday. At points this summer, more than half of all health units were regularly reporting zero cases.