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Toronto under-reports daily COVID-19 cases amid data migration issues

Last Updated Feb 2, 2021 at 5:35 pm EST

A woman wearing a protective face mask walks past St. Michael's Hospital in Toronto on Jan. 11, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS IMAGES/Rachel Verbin

Ontario is reporting 745 new cases of COVID-19 on Tuesday, but the Ministry of Health notes an “underestimation” of Toronto Public Health’s case count as a result of data migration.

In a tweet, Minister of Health Christine Elliott said the most new infections are in Peel Region (334), York Region (124) and Niagara (65). Elliott did not provide a number for Toronto.

The province would only say that Toronto Public Health’s migration to the provincial data system impacted the daily counts.

“Most notably, TPH’s case count is negative following the identification of duplicate cases as well as data corrections to some fields (e.g., long-term care home residents and health care workers), resulting in an underestimation of today’s cases,” the Ministry said in a statement.

Other public health units may “have been affected by system outages related to the migration.

“As a result, we anticipate fluctuations in case numbers over the next few days.”

Health officials say 14 more people died as a result of the virus, bringing the provincial total to 6,238.

Currently, 1,192 people are being treated in hospital, as well, 341 are in ICU and 253 are on a ventilator.

The province says nearly 28,600 tests were completed since Monday’s update and 2,715 additional doses of the COVID-19 vaccine were administered.

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Toronto’s top doctor said streamlining Ontario’s public health data will pay off in the long run.

Dr. Eileen De Villa said on Monday that the new system will make it easier to make referrals for people who live and work in different regions of Ontario.

“It’s helpful to have the relatively easy ability to refer cases and to refer information on an as-needed basis from one jurisdiction to the next,” she said.

De Villa said that another benefit of the new system is its ability to integrate laboratory reports of COVID-19 tests on a regular basis.

“It’s a more seamless integration between the lab reporting and what goes into the public health information case and contact management system,” said De Villa. “Those are the kinds of benefits we’re hoping to appreciate more and more as we fully on-board on to this new system.”

Ontario started using the new data management system last summer and regional public health units have had to make the switch since.