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Ford government commits to keeping schools open with COVID-19 cases on the rise in Toronto

Last Updated Nov 24, 2020 at 11:13 pm EST

Five year-old Nancy Murphy wears a full mask and face shield as she waits in line for her kindergarten class to enter the school at Portage Trail Community School which is part of the Toronto District School Board (TDSB) during the COVID-19 pandemic in Toronto on Tuesday, September 15, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette

As Ontario reported one of its highest single-day increases in COVID-19 cases across its school boards, Toronto continues to see a trend with rate of transmission.

According to new data, the city says one in three Toronto Public schools, or 35 per cent, are reporting an active case of COVID-19 while 40 per cent of Toronto Catholic schools have an active case.

Data as of Nov. 23 – Toronto Public Health


In Peel – and more specifically Brampton – 48 per cent of schools, both Catholic and public, have an active case of COVID-19.

Toronto Public Health say an outbreak in a school is defined as the following:

“Two or more lab-confirmed COVID-19 cases in students and/or staff (or other visitors) in a school with an epidemiological link within a 14-day period where at least one case could have reasonably acquired their infection* in the school (including transportation and before/after school care).”

According to the province’s latest update, there at 155 schools as part of the TDSB currently reporting at least one case of COVID-19. At the TCDSB, there are 61 schools with at least one COVID-19 case among its staff and or students.

On Tuesday, the Ford government reiterated the importance of keeping schools open despite a rise in positive infections.

“I never downplay anything. Numbers don’t lie, they’re out there,” Ford said at his daily COVID-19 briefing.

Ford said he was told ahead of Tuesday’s briefing that 99.99 per cent of teachers are COVID free and that he believes 99.2 per cent of students are COVID free.

“That doesn’t downplay anything. We need to continuously focus on the education system along with the educators… If we need to increase the testing, we’ll increase the testing.”

RELATED: Survey of university students, faculty says online learning has had negative impact

Ontario’s minister of health, Christine Elliott, said the government took decisive action in putting Toronto and Peel in lockdown but that essential services must stay open, which includes keeping kids in school.

“We have heard from many experts in childcare and child development that it is very important for both children’s physical health that they continue in school but also for their mental health,” Elliott said.

“If the circumstances change and there is a huge increase in the number of cases in schools we might have to take another look at it.”

A report by Toronto’s Hospital for Sick Children released this summer called for a full return to school for kids, explaining that while children under 10 were less vulnerable to COVID-19 and less likely to pass the virus onto others, they were already reporting increased rates of depression and anxiety.

In August, the Canadian Journal of Public Health released a study detailing a list of long-term effects on young children who miss school. These included and varied from less-developed cognitive skills and higher incidences of teen pregnancy, to lower employment rates and higher arrest rates.

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