Children 11 and under now make up 20 per cent of Ontario's caseload as school-related infections continue to rise
Children wait to enter 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
Published Thursday, September 23, 2021 11:10AM EDT
Last Updated Thursday, September 23, 2021 11:54AM EDT
Ontario’s publicly funded school boards are reporting more than 100 new school-related cases of COVID-19 today as young children continue to make up an increasingly larger share of the province’s overall caseload.
The Ministry of Education says that there were an additional 122 new school-related cases of COVID-19 confirmed over a 24-hour period that ended Wednesday afternoon, including 106 involving students and 14 involving staff. The other two new cases were in unidentified individuals.
Ontario’s rolling seven-day average of new school-related cases now stands at 121.8, which represents a 62 per cent increase from this time last week.
That said it remains unclear how much of the increase is being driven by larger testing volumes that have coincided with the reopening of schools.
Ontario’s Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Kieran Moore has also insisted that transmission in the school setting has been “minimal” and that rising case counts should “not be a cause for alarm” at this point.
“We're monitoring this situation very closely and as expected, most cases are contracted in the community and not in the school themselves,” Moore said earlier this week. “When cases do occur in school, transmission to date has proven to be minimal with the majority of outbreaks contained at two to three cases.”
The latest data released by the ministry suggests that there are now 1,224 active cases of COVID-19 spread across 702 different schools.
That is more than six times the active caseload at this point in the 2020-2021 school year (180).
Back then, it took until Nov. 24 for the number of active school-related cases to surpass today’s number.
The good news is that there not currently any schools in Ontario that have been ordered to close due to COVID-19 outbreaks following the reopening of St. Joseph's Catholic High School in Windsor earlier today.
But there are at least 235 classrooms of students in the Greater Toronto and Hamilton Area that have been instructed to self-isolate following positive cases. That number, it should be noted, is likely an underrepresentation as a number of boards do not publicly report information about the number of classes that have been switched to remote learning.
Toronto Public Health says that there are currently nine confirmed outbreaks in schools and six confirmed outbreaks in child care centres.
Outbreaks are only declared when two or more cases are determined to be “epidemiologically linked.”
Meanwhile, school-aged children continue to make up a larger proportion of Ontario’s overall caseload.
Over the last seven days Ontario has reported 935 cases of COVID-19 involving children ages 11 and under, accounting for more than 20 per cent of all known cases.
That is up from 17 per cent at this time last week and 15 per cent two weeks ago. It is also nearly double the share of the province’s overall caseload that those children, most of whom are not eligible to be vaccinated, made up at this time last month prior to the reopening of most schools (11.6 per cent over a seven-day period).
Children are less likely to end up in hospital as a result of being infected with COVID-19, though Public Health Ontario says there are 23 people under the age of 19 currently hospitalized with the virus in the province.