Ontario to stop collecting COVID-19 case counts from school boards

‘No sector will have access to the accurate case data, including in the education sector, which is required in order to report COVID-19 cases in schools and child care settings’: TDSB

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The provincial government has decided to stop collecting COVID-19 case numbers from all publicly-funded school boards in Ontario as of next week.

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The TDSB confirmed the change on their website on Friday saying: “The Ministry of Education will no longer be collecting COVID-19 case numbers from school boards. The TDSB, which is committed to keeping families as informed as possible, is currently reviewing how reporting and notification may happen moving forward.”

A Ministry of Education spokesman on Saturday explained the change in an e-mail.

“No sector will have access to the accurate case data, including in the education sector, which is required in order to report COVID-19 cases in schools and child care settings,” said the e-mail.

“We will continue to report school and child care closures and will be providing school boards with updated operational guidance on reporting expectations of absences and closures.”

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The response also referenced Ontario’s chief medical officer Dr. Kieran Moore’s Friday press conference saying “with almost a third to 40% of the COVID tests coming back positive across Ontario, and well over 90% of them Omicron. As a result, the chief medical officer of health has explained that additional knowledge through surveillance and reporting is not necessary.”

Ontario has been reporting COVID-19 cases in schools for the last 18 months.

“I think transparency is key,” Dr. Isaac Bogoch, an infectious disease specialist, told CP24.

“We need to know to what degree COVID is infiltrating the schools. I think that might also influence some parents decisions as well to have their child in school. Transparency really builds confidence and trust.”

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Colin D. Furness, an infection control epidemiologist, said in a letter to Toronto’s Medical Officer of Health, Dr. Eileen de Villa, he’s keeping his own children out of school for the first 13 days and urges making the first day back on Jan. 24 instead of the province’s current plans to begin on Jan. 5.

“Under Dr. Moore’s plan, all students attending schools and daycares in Ontario will become exposed to COVID-19 within a few days of opening,” Furness wrote.

Furness said he’s most concerned about what will happen to unvaccinated children.

“There are 723,000 children in Ontario under 5, entirely unvaccinated, and approximately 75% (550,000) of these are attending daycare or kindergarten,” he wrote.

“There are 1,100,000 children ages 5-11 in Ontario, of whom only approximately 50% are vaccinated. This means a total of 1,100,000 entirely unvaccinated children between the ages of 0-11, who will be attending schools and daycares beginning on January 5: a large share is from Toronto.”

Furness also wants a policy of “at least one shot required for every student to attend in person.”

All of this comes as the province reached a new daily record for new COVID-19 cases Saturday, although Public Health Ontario warned the true number of people infected with the virus is likely higher than the 18,445 reported. – with files from CP.

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