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Ontario reports 109 new COVID-19 deaths up from 67 as wastewater signals rise | CBC News

Ontario is reporting 109 new COVID-19 deaths over the past seven days, which appears to be the highest weekly death count since early May, during the sixth wave of the pandemic.

The weekly death toll comes from new data released Thursday by the province’s ministry of health, which reported 67 deaths the week before.

Not since May 6, when deaths numbered 112 for the week, has the province reported a death toll this high.

The province’s weekly data release normally includes seven individual days worth of information spanning the number of newly reported COVID-19 cases, hospitalizations, intensive care admissions and deaths. This week’s release is missing three days of data from Oct. 15, 16 and 17.

CBC News has contacted the Ministry of Health to inquire about the missing information.

The new numbers paint a stark picture of the toll of the virus. Ontario’s Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Kieran Moore warned last month that the risk of transmission for the novel coronavirus would increase during the colder months.

Hospitalizations rise

According to the data, the number of people in hospital with the virus climbed to 1,663 Thursday, from 1,629 the week before. 

The number of people in intensive care with COVID-19 also rose to 158 from 143 this time last week. Of those, 65 patients required a ventilator to breathe, up from 56 the week prior.

Test positivity on Thursday dropped slightly to 16.4 per cent from 17.1 per cent last Thursday, but it’s considerably higher than the 13.3 per cent reported two weeks ago.

The positivity rate can vary depending on the number of people who test for the virus. This past January, the province moved to limit PCR testing to high-risk populations and settings only. 

Experts have said reported case counts are a severe underestimate of the actual extent of COVID-19 infections in Ontario. 

The province’s wastewater signal also suggests the prevalence of the virus on the rise. It is currently at its highest point in about a month, with extrapolations predicting a marked rise in coming weeks.

(Public Health Ontario)

Meanwhile, Ottawa Public Health is urging people to mask indoors and in crowded public spaces in its latest COVID-19 update. The health unit says levels of COVID-19 in Ottawa are high as it also reports its first influenza outbreak.

On its website, Toronto Public Health also says masks are strongly recommended in indoor public settings, “especially if you are around people who are at higher risk or have a health condition.”

1,000 days since Toronto’s first confirmed COVID case

The Ontario government lifted mask requirements across most of the province in June.

Last week, the government also quietly removed the requirement for visitors and caregivers to wear masks when alone with a resident at a long-term care home, one of the last places where mask mandates remain.

Meanwhile, the City of Toronto said Friday marks 1,000 days since the city’s first confirmed case of COVID-19, saying as people head indoors for fall and winter, the virus has “an increased opportunity to spread.”

Bivalent vaccines, which are targeted to help protect against Omicron are “part of the necessary protection for all,” it said.

Here’s a look back at CBC Toronto’s reporting when the city marked its first presumptive case of the virus:

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