Ontario is reporting its lowest single-day positivity rate in nearly four months but an unknown number of cases from Toronto are not included in the latest numbers, as that public health unit continues to transition to a new data management system.

The Ministry of Health says that there were 1,076 new cases of the disease caused by the novel coronavirus confirmed on Thursday, as the province’s labs processed 62,012 specimens. The ministry says that the positivity rate was 2.2 per cent overall, which is the lowest that number has been since Oct. 16.

Positivity rates had previously reached as high as 9.7 per cent in early January, as testing slowed and new cases surged in the days following the holidays.

The latest data comes one day after the province’s science table released new modelling, which suggested that case counts will begin to rise in late February due to the increased contagiousness of new variants if the Ford government moves ahead with its plan to gradually lift the stay-at-home order across the province.

“All arrows are pointing in the right direction. You have lower daily case counts, lower seven-day averages, lower per cent positivity, decent diagnostic testing capacity, hospital and ICUs slowly having the pressure released from them but of course there is the wildcard of the variants of concern which certainly are more transmissible plus reopening which gives more opportunity for the virus, including the variants of concern to spread,” infectious disease specialist Dr. Issac Bogoch told CP24 on Friday morning. “As always I think we have to proceed with caution.”

Of the new cases confirmed on Friday, 361 were in Toronto but it is possible that total is much higher.

On Thursday, Toronto also under-reported its data and later clarified that there were nearly three hundred more cases that weren’t initially included in the provincial numbers.

There have been nine days in the past two weeks where Toronto Public Health warned its data was incomplete.

Elsewhere in the GTHA, York Region had 122 new cases, Peel had 210, Halton had 31, Durham had 31 and Hamilton had 30.

There was also 39 new cases of the B.1.1.7 variant that originated in the United Kingdom reported in Friday’s data, bringing the total so far to 275.

Officials have said that they believe that variant already accounts for five to 10 per cent of COVID-19 cases in the province and will become the dominant strain by March, potentially “triggering exponential growth.”

“It concerns me hugely. Not because I am a doctor or scientist but because the doctors and scientists we rely on, including or medical officer of health, have told me that we should be very concerned about this to the point where they are saying that we should be very, very careful about how we reopen.,” Toronto Mayor John Tory told CP24 on Friday morning when asked about the spread of the new variant. “The numbers have been improving quite consistently but at the same time these variant numbers have started to pop up and you just want to watch that so we don’t have a third wave. Look, at the end of the day I don’t think there is anybody out there in the business community elsewhere who wants to see us open again and then close again.”

There were also another 18 deaths reported on Friday, including eight long-term care home residents.

Meanwhile, hospitalizations continue to decline.

On Thursday there were 763 COVID-19 patients in Ontario hospitals, according to the ministry. It is the lowest that number has been since Dec. 7.

It had previously peaked at 1,701 on January 12.

The rolling seven-day average of new cases also continues to decrease and now stands at 1,179, down 12.9 per cent from this time last week and 45 per cent from its January peak (3,273 on Jan. 15).

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