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Ontario launches website tracking number of COVID-19 cases in schools

Last Updated Sep 11, 2020 at 5:42 pm EDT

Students are dropped off at school ahead of their first day of classes in Pickering, Ont., on Sept. 8, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Cole Burston
Summary

Ford promised this week that his government would report all outbreaks of the novel coronavirus in Ontario schools


Province says the site will be updated every weekday and include a summary of cases


Under current provincial guidelines, schools are required to report cases to parents online or with a letter home


Parents can now access data on COVID-19 outbreaks in Ontario schools and child-care centres through a website launched by the provincial government on Friday.

The province said the website will be updated every weekday and include a summary of cases, as well as more detailed information on where the numbers come from.

As of Friday morning, the website showed 13 cases at schools in Ontario, including four students and nine staff members. All four student cases are at French Catholic schools in Ottawa.

Premier Doug Ford promised earlier this week that his government would report all outbreaks of the novel coronavirus in Ontario schools.

“I think it’s so important we report every single case, as we did with long-term care. We’ll do the same in school,” Ford said at a news conference Wednesday.

The move came after opposition New Democrats called on the Progressive Conservative government to share details of school outbreaks across the province rather than leaving disclosures to individual schools or boards.

Canada’s chief public health officer, Theresa Tam, said Friday that systems of reporting COVID-19 outbreaks in schools should also provide an in-depth description of the transmission.

The reports should be able to say whether provinces think the transmission happened in the school or elsewhere, said Tam.

She also noted that she wants to see the whole picture when it comes to COVID-19 outbreaks in schools.

“What I would like to see is those numbers reported, not just from schools with cases, but also the denominator of how many schools are actually doing OK,” she said.

Under provincial guidelines, schools are required to report COVID-19 cases to parents online or with a letter home.

One of the schools where the virus has already surfaced is an elementary school in Oakville.

The school’s principal, Gail McDonald, said in a letter to parents that a staff member at Oodenawi Public School tested positive for COVID-19 just days before students returned to class.

The school was informed of the positive test on Monday, she added.

McDonald said the person was present during staff PA Days at the school last week and that no students were exposed to the virus.

Staff who had close contact with the individual have been ordered by public health officials to self-isolate for 14 days.

The province also revealed a total of 56 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in its 5,500 licensed child care centres and 120 licensed home child care agencies. Of that total, 18 centres are still reporting a case of coronavirus while five centres have been closed due to outbreaks. The provincial data does break down the number of home child care centres with a reported case of COVID-19.