Premier Doug Ford unveiling new online tool to allow Ontarians to track COVID-19 cases in schools

Ontarians will soon be able to track any cases of COVID-19 in schools.

With millions of students already returning to classrooms for the first time in six months, Premier Doug Ford’s Progressive Conservative government is set to unveil a new online tool to monitor coronavirus cases.

Similar to the tracking used in long-term-care homes since early in the pandemic, the forthcoming “dashboard” on the Ministry of Education website will give the public information about cases in schools.

It will disclose which schools have COVID-19 cases and whether students, teachers or support staff are infected.

“We will be reporting moving forward,” Ford told reporters Wednesday after a Mississauga meeting with Quebec Premier François Legault.

“This is our second day now going back to school. They’re rolling this out over the next week or two. But we’ll be reporting it,” he said.

“It’s so important that we report every single case as we did with long-term care. We’ll do the same in schools.”

Ford stressed he believes “in being transparent” with Ontarians.

“I’ve said from day one, what I know, you’ll know,” the premier emphasized.

“Even before school opened, I was reporting on how many kids under 19 (were infected). That was concerning when I saw numbers of of 20, 21, 25 the other day for kids under the age of 19.”

But Ford said the government has no plans to identify private workplaces that may have COVID-19 cases unlike some other provinces.

“We release the numbers every single day, and we’ve never had a request for the exact locations. If you’re saying should I target certain companies, if there’s an outbreak in a company? I don’t believe in targeting companies if there is one case or two cases,” he said.

“If there is a massive outbreak, I think the media will cover that. But we’re there to support the companies.”

On Thursday, Ontario reported 170 new cases of COVID-19, up from 149 Wednesday, but down from 185 Tuesday and 190 on Monday. There was one death reported, the first since Sunday.

“Locally, 28 public health units are reporting five or fewer cases, with 14 reporting no new cases,” Health Minister Christine Elliott said on Twitter.

“There are 55 cases in Toronto today, with 28 in York, 22 in Peel and 12 in Ottawa,” said Elliott.

Across the province, 24,669 coronavirus tests were conducted Wednesday, the most since Sunday.

Queen’s Park says 2,814 people have died from the virus since the outbreak struck in March, but the Star has determined there have been at least 2,855 COVID-19 deaths in Ontario.

The difference of at least 41 deaths is because some were not included in official tallies early in the pandemic.

There are 54 COVID-19 patients in Ontario hospitals, 15 in intensive care units. Of those, nine are on ventilators.

Even with the recent uptick, the rate of infection remains well below the worst of the pandemic.

At its height in April, Ontario was averaging nearly 600 cases daily.

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The vast majority of the province’s COVID-19 patients have since recovered, and the recent rise in cases has not yet resulted in a significant jump in hospitalizations or deaths.

There are now 1,567 active cases of the virus, a number that has been rising in recent weeks and the most since July 28.

The Star’s count includes some patients reported as “probable” COVID-19 cases, meaning they have symptoms and contacts or travel history that indicate they very likely have the disease, but have not yet received a positive lab test.

Robert Benzie

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