Ontario is recording fewer than 2,000 new cases of COVID-19 today, however only 34,000 tests were processed over the past 24 hours and the province said cases reported by Toronto Public Health were likely underreported due to a “technical issue.”

Provincial health officials logged 1,913 new cases today, the lowest number of infections reported in a single day in over a month. But just 34,531 tests were completed yesterday, the fewest number of tests completed in a 24-hour period since Dec. 29.

A spokesperson for the province confirmed this morning that Toronto Public Health, which reported 550 cases today, experienced a “technical issue,” resulting in what was likely an underreporting of new cases.

Toronto reported 815 new cases on Monday, 1,035 new infections on Sunday, and 903 cases on Saturday.

Other areas of the province also saw significant drops in the number of new infections recorded over the past 24 hours, including Niagara Region. 

Niagara Public Health, which reported 151 new cases on Monday, 186 on Sunday, and 147 on Saturday, logged just 53 new cases today, a 65 per cent decrease day-over-day.

After weeks of daily case numbers above 500, Peel Region reported just 346 new cases today.

Ottawa saw only 42 new cases today after reporting 92 on Monday, 144 on Sunday, and 152 on Saturday.

The Ministry of Health said it is not aware of any reporting issues with other regions of the province.

Another 46 virus-related deaths were confirmed in the province today, including 20 residents of long-term care homes.

With the drop in testing, the Ministry of Health says the provincewide positivity rate today is 6.8 per cent, down from 7.8 per cent last week.

Including today’s data, the seven-day average of new cases in now 2,893, down from 3,523 one week ago.

Health officials are also reporting a rise in virus-related hospitalizations for the first time in several days. According to the province, there are now 1,626 people infected with the novel coronavirus who are receiving treatment at Ontario hospitals, up from 1,571 on Monday.

This is also the first time the Ministry of Health has reported 400 COVID-19 patients in intensive care units (ICU) across Ontario.

Critical Care Services Ontario (CCSO) said Monday that at least 416 COVID-19 patients are in the ICU.

On Monday afternoon, Dr. David Williams, Ontario’s chief medical officer of health, said Ontario’s case growth is showing signs of levelling off, but cautioned that it is too early to say whether this trend will continue.

“We are plateauing but that doesn’t mean we can’t jump up again because places like the UK, and others, plateaued and then went up very rapidly when the UK variant took off,” he said.

The spike in case growth earlier this month prompted Premier Doug Ford to declare a second state-of-emergency in Ontario and implement a provincewide “stay-at-home” order, directing people only to leave their homes for essential purposes, including getting groceries, going to medical appointments, and exercising.

A provincial lockdown put in place on Boxing Day also still remains in effect.

Williams noted that he would like to see a dramatic reduction in the number of new cases per day before lockdown measures are lifted.

He noted that to bring virus-related hospitalizations and ICU admissions down to an acceptable level, Ontario would likely need to see fewer than 1,000 new cases per day.

Ultimately, Williams said, the province would like to see the number of COVID-19 patients in intensive care dip below 150.

“That’s where the modellers said we could get back to doing all of the other procedures at the same time. That is a target to head for,” he said. “I think we can get there.”

Speaking to CP24 on Tuesday morning, Dr. Isaac Bogoch said there will need to be several measures in place to ensure Ontario does not go “back to square one” when lockdown measures are lifted, including adequate testing, contact tracing, and workplace protections.

“I think the other elephant in the room is vaccination. How much access to vaccines do we have? How widely available is it? Have high-risk groups been vaccinated,” he said.

“I think balancing all of that information will be extremely helpful in deciding when the lockdown should be lifted.” 

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