TORONTO -- Ontario health officials are reporting an additional 226 new cases of COVID-19 Friday, marking the fifth straight day in which infection numbers have climbed.

The data released by the government brings Ontario's lab-confirmed COVID-19 case total to 550,178, including 539,348 recoveries and 9,339 deaths related to the disease.

At least 11 of those deaths were reported in the last 24 hours, according to the Ministry of Health. 

Labs across the province processed 20,993 swabs in the previous day, which officials said yielded a positivity rate of 1.1 per cent.

The seven-day average for the number of cases reported in Ontario stands at 170. That's up from the 160 reported this time last week and the 151 reported a week before that.

There are currently 117 patients with COVID-19 being treated in an intensive care unit. Of those patients, 77 are breathing with the assistance of a ventilator. 

Where are the new COVID-19 cases?

Most of the cases reported by the province on Friday were found in Toronto (62), Waterloo (35), and Peel Region (24).

Case numbers in the double digits were also reported in York Region (13), Hamilton (13), and Halton Region (13).

Fifteen of the province's 34 public health units reported fewer than five new cases of COVID-19. Nine public health units reported no new cases.

Ontario is currently in Step 3 of its reopening plan, which has seen the province operating under the loosest set of public health restrictions observed in months for the past two weeks.

On Thursday, Health Minister Christine Elliott announced that Ontario had hit its first benchmark to exit Step 3 and move toward a complete reopening with 80 per cent of the eligible population having now received a first dose of a COVID-19 vaccine.

In order to move out of Step 3, the province must also have 75 per cent of the population with two doses of a COVID-19 vaccine, no public health unit can have less than 70 per cent of their eligible population vaccinated and other key indicators – like hospital capacity and case counts – must remain stable. 

Update on COVID-19 variants of concern

Labs confirmed another 144 cases of the Delta variant B.1.617.2 since yesterday, pushing the case total to 4,565.

Twenty-eight other cases of the Alpha variant B.1.1.7 were also logged, which brings the case total to 145,536.

There was one additional case of the Beta variant B.1.351 confirmed. There are 1,493 such cases in Ontario.

No new cases of the Gamma variant P.1 were logged. The case total remains at 5,161. 

Ontario’s fully vaccinated population nears 9 million

The province reported Friday that nearly nine million residents have now received two doses of a COVID-19 vaccine and are considered to be fully vaccinated.

More than 19 million needles have gone into arms across Ontario since the vaccination drive began in December.

Some 83,000 shots were administered on Thursday alone. 

With files from Sean Davidson

Backstory:

The numbers used in this story are found in the Ontario Ministry of Health's COVID-19 Daily Epidemiologic Summary. The number of cases for any city or region may differ slightly from what is reported by the province, because local units report figures at different times.