NSW residents won't know if tough new restrictions are working until the weekend at the earliest, as the state recorded 110 new local cases.
Greater Sydney's lockdown, now in its fourth week, is slated to finish at the end of the month.
But with at least 60 of the new cases circulating in the community for part or all of their infectious period, and case numbers up markedly from 78 the day before, Premier Gladys Berejiklian looks likely to prolong the stay-at-home orders.
"That is a high number but a number which reflects the high amount of testing that we had," Ms Berejiklian acknowledged on Wednesday.
"The simple message is this is really serious."
There was a record number of tests - 83,477 - conducted in the 24 hours to 8pm on Tuesday.
Ms Berejiklian batted away questions about modelling which suggests Sydney will need to lock down until September at the earliest.
Of the new cases, 43 were infectious in the community for the entire time and 17 were the community for part of their infectious period. The isolation status of 13 cases remains under investigation.
Some 54 are linked to a known case, and 56 are under investigation.
Ms Berejiklian said the state had been "extremely successful" in limiting the spread of the virus despite low vaccination numbers.
"In truth, we won't live as freely as we need to or we would like until vaccination rates increase," she said.
"That is one thing the NSW government can't control."
The lockdown has caused changes to the Higher School Certificate timetable, with language and dance exams rescheduled this week.
The NSW Education Standards Authority vowed to work with NSW Health to identify where changes to the HSC should be made to limit disruption.
NESA CEO Paul Martin vowed that students will obtain their HSC this year.
There are 106 patients in hospital with COVID-19 in NSW, 23 are in intensive care and 11 are ventilated.
Since the Greater Sydney outbreak began on June 16, there have been 1528 cases and five people have died.
NSW Health's Jeremy McAnulty encouraged people to be "particularly vigilant" in Cumberland, Merrylands, Guildford, Belrose, Toongabbie, Seven Hills, Mount Druitt, Rooty Hill, Lakemba, Fairfield, Haymarket and Wollongong.
A list of exposure sites published by NSW Health on Wednesday evening focused on Sydney's west, with pharmacies in Merrylands, Auburn and Punchbowl among the venues.
A gardening shop in Mascot was exposed for a three-hour stretch on Saturday.
Three sites in Wollongong and nearby Fairy Meadow also made the list.
Minister for Customer Service Victor Dominello said NSW Services had received 15,500 applications for support by 11am on Wednesday and the state had processed $196 million worth of those applications, with $26 million so far deposited.
Meanwhile, people in the central-western town of Orange and its surrounds are in their first full day of a seven-day lockdown after a COVID-19 positive delivery driver from Sydney visited the area and infected another person.
The lockdown in the Orange, Blayney and Cabonne local government areas marks the first time a stay-at-home order has been imposed in regional NSW.
Police are running an operation to ensure compliance in the region, with high-visibility proactive patrols and compliance checks.
Residents can only leave to shop for essential items, for medical care or compassionate needs, exercise in groups of no more than two and for work or tertiary studies that can't be done from home.
Residents of Greater Sydney and surrounding regions are now in their fourth week of lockdown restrictions, currently due to expire at the end of this month.
The Sydney construction market has been shut down for the next two weeks.
A full list of NSW exposure sites can be found at health.nsw.gov.au
Australian Associated Press