The steady rise in Ontario's COVID-19 caseload continued on Sunday, though at a slightly slower pace than the previous two days, when diagnoses reached levels not seen for months.
The province recorded 365 new COVID-19 cases and one new death over the past 24 hours. The daily tally, while still considerably higher than numbers the province was recording three weeks ago, is slightly lower than the more than 400 new cases documented Friday and Saturday.
The bulk of Sunday's new cases came in two of the traditional hot spots that have emerged in recent weeks, but data suggests a neighbouring community could be poised to join their ranks.
York Region, located north of Toronto, recorded 38 new cases Sunday morning. Toronto itself and nearby Peel Region reported 113 and 108 new cases respectively, while the third hot spot of Ottawa reported 14.
The recent surge in new diagnoses has prompted the province's Progressive Conservative government to roll back limits on social gatherings, which had been raised over the summer when case numbers dropped.
Premier Doug Ford, who imposed a cap of 10 physically distanced participants on indoor assemblies and 25 for events taking place outside over the next 28 days, has attributed the recent spike to residents flouting public health advice by meeting in large groups and failing to wear masks or stay at least two metres away from other people.
Ford on Sunday lambasted attendees of one such gathering, saying the hundreds of people who packed a Hamilton-area parking lot the night before to attend an event related to car racing were putting the public at risk.
"The reckless behaviour that we saw in Ancaster last night was totally unacceptable," the premier said in a statement. "While Ontario has made incredible progress in the fight against COVID-19, we cannot take that progress for granted. This fight isn't over and now is not the time to let our guard down."
Ford has previously pledged to monitor outbreaks in the province's schools and child-care centres, where rising case numbers have already caused isolated closures.
The Ottawa Catholic School Board said Sunday that classes are cancelled for the next 14 days at Monsignor Paul Baxter elementary school, where four positive cases have been identified — two among students and two among staff.
Board spokeswoman Sharlene Hunter said local health officials are aware of the situation.
"We are working closely with Ottawa Public Health and are following their direction and guidance," she said in a statement. "OPH has already notified close contacts and will provide further instructions, including how and when to get tested for COVID-19 and what other actions to take."
Another school in Pembroke, Ont., closed last week due to an outbreak. The latest provincial figures showed there were 72 COVID-19 cases tied to 60 schools as of Friday.
Meanwhile a student and a staff member have tested positive for COVID-19 at two separate schools in Toronto's Catholic board.
A student at St. Gerald Catholic School has tested positive and so has a staff member at St. Basil-the-Great College School, the board said, noting that both schools remain open and have been cleaned.
Sunday's data showed the province completing a record-high number of COVID-19 tests, according to a tweet from Health Minister Christine Elliott. She said officials processed 40,127 tests over the past 24 hours.
Demand for testing has soared in recent weeks, prompting the province to set up additional assessment facilities in regions hit hard by the virus.
Ford has also indicated he hopes to involve pharmacies in the provincewide testing effort, saying details on that plan could be released as soon as this week.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Sept. 20, 2020.
Michelle McQuigge, The Canadian Press