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Toronto schools report COVID-19 cases as provincial reporting system lags

Last Updated Sep 13, 2021 at 1:05 pm EDT

Not even a full week into the school year, Toronto Public Health has identified COVID-19 cases in three schools.

Cases have been confirmed at Fraser Mustard Early Learning Centre in Thorncliffe Park, St-Michel French Catholic Elementary in Scarborough, and West Hill Collegiate also in Scarborough.

TPH said it’s investigating and is working to notify those affected, asking them to stay home and monitor for signs and symptoms.

“This isn’t unexpected given COVID-19 continues to circulate in our city and how transmissible the Delta variant is,” the health unit said in a Twitter statement. “(Toronto Public Health) is also investigating a number of other COVID-19 cases in our school communities.”

Health officials stress this was not unexpected given that COVID-19 continues to circulate and transmissible the Delta variant.

The number of cases identified has not been released.

The Toronto schools are the latest in the province to report cases of the virus since the classes resumed this month.

The Greater Essex County District School Board, which covers schools in Windsor, Ont., and the surrounding area, reported three new COVID-19 cases in schools on Monday and a total of seven active cases.

A trickle of cases have been reported elsewhere in the province since classes resumed in most regions last week.

All students at an elementary school in Cornwall, Ont., were dismissed for at least a week starting on Monday over a virus case still being probed by public health.

Viscount Alexander Public School posted to social media on Sunday saying that “an individual” at the school had tested positive, with “multiple confirmed and probable exposures” at the school identified by the Eastern Ontario Health Unit.

“Your children’s teachers will be reaching out before the end of the school day either by email or phone call with information regarding remote instructions for the remainder of the week,” the school wrote in a Monday follow-up post.

“Thank you for your patience and your understanding.”

A full picture of COVID-19 in Ontario schools was difficult to assess on Monday because the provincial government dashboard detailing cases in schools and daycares still had not been updated since July.

The government said Monday that the portal would be active “in the next few days.” It said boards were given a few days after the return to school before they had to start reporting cases to the province. Boards are required to report information about COVID-19 cases on their individual websites.

Recent guidelines from the Ministry of Education have allowed schools to loosen public health restrictions on shared spaces like cafeterias as the third school year disrupted by the pandemic gets underway. Daily screening for symptoms and indoor masking is still required.

The province is also allowing schools to hold extracurriculars like sports, though some health units including Toronto and Windsor chose to hold off on permitting those activities at the start of the school year.

Opposition politicians reacted to news of virus cases in schools on Monday by criticizing the government over its school reopening plans.

Liberal Leader Steven Del Duca repeated criticism that Premier Doug Ford’s government has not broken down how it spent federal pandemic money intended for school reopening.

“Our kids and our school reopening are at risk because Doug Ford didn’t plan and didn’t prepare,” Del Duca commented on Twitter.

NDP Leader Andrea Horwath held a news conference Monday morning raising concerns about reports of large classes with more than 30 students. She called on the government to reduce class sizes to better support students and minimize COVID-19 risk.

“We all know that we need to do best by our kids, we need to do the right thing by kids in the classrooms,” she said.

“Sadly, Doug Ford’s just rolling the dice when it comes to our children’s health and well-being.”

With files from The Canadian Press

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