Toronto’s positivity rate on COVID-19 tests hit 4.4 per cent last week and is now nearly double the “high alert” threshold previously cited by the province.

Medical Officer of Health Dr. Eileen de Villa shared the news during a briefing at city hall on Wednesday afternoon.

She said that while the positivity rate “is just one indicator” its recent steep rise is cause for concern, especially when considered alongside rising case counts and hospitalization rates.

“Today our per cent positivity figure for Toronto is 4.4. It has increased 1.3 per cent since I spoke with you on Monday when it was 3.1 per cent. The figure could yet change because we understand data for the most recent week can be incomplete but I feel comfortable saying that I have no basis to expect that it will fall 1.3 per cent and that I am concerned that its upward climb is not over, especially when I look at COVID-19’s renewed eruption in other countries,” she warned.

The city’s seven-day positivity rate was less than one per cent as recently as Aug. 30 but has steadily increased since then in lockstep with the rising case counts.

The 4.4 per cent positivity rate reported by de Villa on Wednesday is nearly double the 2.5 per cent “high alert” threshold that the province has cited in moving some regions with higher case counts back into a modified version of Stage 2.

It is also well above the three per cent goal cited by Toronto Public Health.

“The most value comes from looking at the sum total of all the indicators but unfortunately when you look at our monitoring dashboard right now the overall status is red, hence I am asking the people of Toronto to please continue on with the self protection measures,” de Villa said on Wednesday. “This situation is very much within our hands. We can do this together but we do have to commit to doing the things that we know makes a difference in terms of stopping the spread of COVID-19.”

City reports 346 new cases

During her briefing on Wednesday, de Villa cited the experience of other countries that have struggled to contain COVID-19 and said there is nothing to prevent the virus “from catching fire here except for the choices we make.”

She said that right now residents need to continue, “to stay apart as much as possible” from people they don’t live with and make sure that they are wearing their masks and washing their hands.

She said that this year “a big part of outsmarting COVID-19 will be by getting a flu shot” as well, thus ensuring that hospital resources can be preserved.

“If it had the capacity to want COVID-19 would want us exactly where we are right now – tired, frustrated, impatient and worn out with living like this,” she said. “I know I am out here urging you forward, asking for your patience, trying to strengthen your resolve but actually I am just like you. I am as tired as living like this as everyone else but is my job not to be so I am not giving up on getting this right and I am not giving up on you.”

On Wednesday, the city reported 346 new COVID-19 cases as the total number of lab-confirmed cases so far surpassed the 25,000 mark.

De Villa said that there were also 21 more people who were hospitalized with COVID-19 in Toronto over the last 24 hours, a nearly 20 per cent increase.