TORONTO -- Ontario health officials have confirmed an additional 38 deaths related to COVID-19 while adding 514 new cases of the virus in the province, the second highest number of cases reported in a single day.

There are currently 8,961 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Ontario, which includes 423 deaths and 4,194 recoveries. Close to 300 cases have recovered in the last 24 hours alone.

According to Thursday’s epidemiological summary, one deceased patient is between the ages of 20 and 39, another 26 patients who died were between the ages of 40 and 59.

As well, 130 deceased patients were between the ages of 60 and 79, up from the 115 reported on Wednesday. An additional 266 patients who died were 80 years of age or older, an increase of 19 from the number reported on Wednesday.

Seniors’ residences and long-term care homes have been disproportionately affected by COVID-19. As of Thursday morning, the province says that there are currently 104 outbreaks at such facilities across Ontario, representing 162 deaths. The data shows that 18 long-term care residents have died since yesterday.

On Wednesday, the Ontario government unveiled its new plan to fight COVID-19 in long-term care homes, including stricter testing and screening measures in homes facing outbreaks. Additionally, the government issued an emergency order that limits long-term care home staff to working at only one facility, a move nursing advocates and NDP Leader Andrea Horwath had been calling for.

However, that order does not come into effect until April 22 and only lasts 14 days from that date, which Horwath called unacceptable.

“Everybody knew long-term care was in a crisis,” Horwath said Wednesday. “And so here we are now in the midst of this crisis, and it shouldn’t be another week.”

The Minister of Long-Term Care Dr. Merrilee Fullerton defended the rollout of the emergency order on Wednesday saying that the delay gives long-term care homes enough time to prepare.

Ontario's Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. David Williams echoed Fulleton’s comments saying that implementation of such an order “takes time.”

“Because you have to deal with various contracts and negotiations and you have to deal with all of that.”

Province surpasses daily COVID-19 testing goal

Thursday’s report also shows that the province not only met its daily COVID-19 testing goal, but actually surpassed their own expectations by more than 1,000 tests.

The province completed 9,001 tests in the last 24 hours, more than the 8,000 it had hoped to achieve by April 15.

“We’ve hit our first target and we’re going to keep ramping up our efforts until we hit 14,000 tests a day by the end of this month," Ontario Premier Doug Ford said at a news conference on Thursday.

On Friday, the province laid out its plan to raise the daily output of tests to about 12,500 by April 22 and 16,000 daily tests by May 6.

The speed of testing for COVID-19 in Ontario has become a hot topic in recent weeks.

On Wednesday, Ford doubled down on his push to conduct as many tests as possible days after calling on Ontario Public Health to “get these damn tests done.”

As of Thursday, 128,093 tests have been conducted with 4,323 cases under investigation. That number is down from the 4,429 cases under investigation reported on Wednesday as labs work to clear the backlog left behind by expanded testing criteria. 

However, Ontario health officials noted that the 128,093 tests conducted represents the number of total tests performed and not the total number of people tested, meaning that numerous samples may have been taken from a single patient.

“We’re testing some people a couple times, maybe a week later, but that should still count as a test," Ford said when asked about the figures.

Ontario’s Minister of Health Christine Elliott added that the number of those tested more than one time is "not significant."

It is unclear how many people have actually been tested for the virus.

Patients in intensive care unit lower than provincial forecast

While the number of patients hospitalized with COVID-19 continues to grow, the number of those being treated in an intensive care unit (ICU) is significantly lower than what the province had predicted earlier this month.

On April 3, Public Health Ontario’s President and CEO Dr. Peter Donnelly said that in a best case scenario, the province could expect to see roughly 1,100 patients in the ICU by April 15.

There are currently 807 patients in hospital, including 248 patients in the ICU, of which 200 are breathing with the assistance of a ventilator.

The number of patients in the ICU represents approximately 850 less than what the government had forecast, which one infectious disease specialist calls a “positive trend.”

“The numbers are large overall, but the more encouraging thought is that they are slowing down and instead of the clusters and waves that we had forecasted from a few weeks ago,” Dr. Abdu Sharkawy told CTV News.

“That’s certainly a more positive sign and a positive trend.”

Ford credited the efforts of Ontario residents for the relatively low numbers of ICU patients when compared to projections.

“That’s the reason we’re in a relatively, half-decent—I’m not even going to say the word ‘good’ because we aren’t. This could come back and bite us in the backside in about 10 seconds.”

Ford said that Ontario health officials are in the process of gathering updated numbers from across the province, with hopes of releasing new modelling data next week.

Ford went on to say that 1,035 acute care beds and 1,492 critical care beds have been addded to Ontario hospitals to deal with a sudden increase in COVID-19 patients.

The premier added that he hopes about 4,200 more acute care beds will be available by the end of April.

Quick facts on all COVID-19 patients in Ontario:

  • 980 of all reported cases are health care workers.
  • 54.8 per cent of all cases in Ontario were reported by Greater Toronto Area public health units
  • 56.3 per cent of all patients are female and 43 per cent are male—60 cases did not specify their gender
  • 18.3 per cent of all patients are 80 years of age or older
  • 23.4 per cent of all patients are between the ages of 60 and 79
  • 32.7 per cent of all patients are between the ages of 40 and 59
  • 23.3 per cent of all patients are between the ages of 20 and 39
  • 2.3 per cent of all patients are 19 year of age or younger—six cases had an unknown age, according to provincial health officials