Ontario to stop reporting COVID-19 cases in schools, memo says; NDP calls move 'terrifying for parents'
Ontario will stop reporting COVID-19 cases in schools and child care settings, memos from the Ministry of Education say, prompting criticism from the opposition New Democratic Party who called the move "terrifying for parents."
In memos sent to school boards and child care licensees dated Dec. 30, the ministry said it is implementing new health and safety measures in schools and child care facilities, citing recent changes to its case and contact management strategy. The memos were shared in a news release by the NDP Friday.
On Thursday, Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Kieran Moore announced that the province is shortening isolation requirements, limiting testing to high-risk groups and reopening schools next Wednesday, Jan 5., rather than Monday. Child care programs, however, will be permitted to operate beginning Jan. 3.
In a statement issued Friday, the Ontario NDP called on the provincial government to reverse testing and tracing cuts.
"If we can't track where the virus is, we can't fight it," education critic Marit Stiles said.
"Doug Ford is leaving our littlest kids unprotected, and even going so far as to stop testing and reporting — he's trying to hide the damage, and the danger of his choices," said child care critic Bhutila Karpoche.
"How are parents supposed to make decisions to keep their kids safe?"
Asked Thursday if the move to limit testing to high-risk individuals was a political one, Moore pushed back, saying the province would test everyone if it had the capacity.
"We have to pivot, we know there's ongoing community activity, we know we'll have transmission risk, that data has to focus to screen those who need treatment and to protect those in high-risk settings," Moore told reporters at Thursday's media conference.
The NDP's statement also notes that children under five cannot be vaccinated and that many child care centres have been using negative PCR tests to allow a child to return after symptoms.
In a statement, the Toronto District School Board confirmed the Ministry of Education will no longer be collecting COVID-19 case numbers from school boards.
TDSB said its reviewing how reporting and notification of cases will occur moving forward.
In an interview on CBC Radio's Metro Morning on Friday, Moore said that the province's new metric for monitoring the spread of Omicron will be "how well our hospitals can continue to provide care" and not necessarily daily case counts.
He noted again that the province is preparing for a surge in the coming weeks.
WARNING: This story contains graphic content some readers may find disturbing.
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