Toronto and Peel are on lockdown, so it’s no surprise they have more cases than the provincial average, but the Prime Minister acknowledged that was concerning.
“He’s definitely raising the alarm,” Premier Doug Ford said at a press conference Tuesday.
The government has always said it was safer for students to go to school and that the priority was to keep them open. He never mentioned that cases in locked areas are much higher than the provincial average, which is 14.6%. Four schools are currently closed due to epidemics.
Education Minister Stephen Lecce appeared in the Legislature on Monday and insisted that schools were safe.
“Parents want the facts. Here’s a fact that I think would instill a level of confidence: if they knew that 99.95% of students are COVID-19 free, that 99.92% of staff are COVID-19 free, that 99.7% of the staff have never had COVID-19, ”Lecce said. “Our leadership in public health and our school boards are working together to flatten this curve, reduce risk and keep our children safe, and it’s a good thing we should be celebrating in this province.”
In Brampton, 61 public schools and 28 Catholic schools are reporting 122 and 89 cases, respectively. In the public board, 51 schools beyond Brampton are reporting another 78 cases. Of these, 46 schools are in Mississauga, four in Caledon and one in Bolton.
In Dufferin-Peel Catholic Council, 37 schools outside of Brampton are reporting a total of 61 cases. All of these schools except one are in Mississauga, and the only other in Caledon.
The percentage of schools in Brampton with active COVID-19 cases exceeds the proportion of its school boards overall.
The rate in the Dufferin-Peel Catholic School Board, which includes Mississauga, Caledon, Bolton and Orangeville, is 43%, with a total of 65 of its 151 elementary and secondary schools reporting active cases. In the Peel public council, which serves Brampton, Mississauga and Caledon, the rate is 44%. 100, or 112 of the 257 schools.
CityNews used the latest information posted on all council’s websites to compile this data.
The Prime Minister said today that he is not playing down the cases in schools: “the numbers don’t lie, they are out there”.
Ontario’s Chief Medical Officer of Health has repeatedly said it’s important to keep schools open for children’s mental health, and while students and staff are bringing COVID-19 to schools, it is not not spread inside them. Provincial Health Minister Christine Elliott echoed this today, adding that she would reassess the situation if necessary.
“If the circumstances change and there is a huge increase in the number of cases in schools, we may need to reconsider the issue,” Elliott said.
Ontario has started rolling out rapid tests in long-term care homes and rural communities. Ford called this a game-changer and suggested that if schools needed testing, it could happen. University of Toronto epidemiologist Colin Furness says he doesn’t think schools should close, but says those inside should be tested regularly.
“We should be doing large-scale surveillance tests in the province, we should have done since April. By surveillance tests I mean you don’t test people who come to the hospital looking sick, they are diagnostic tests. Surveillance tests mean you are going to test those at risk, ”he explained.
“We should test teachers because they are also in high risk positions, and if you want to know what’s going on with COVID in schools, test teachers,” he added, “But the Ontario has made a firm commitment not to do surveillance testing. We don’t try to control the transmission with tests, we control with locks. I think it’s unfortunate.