TORONTO — Ontario will no longer be reporting COVID-19 case figures in schools or child-care settings amid an ongoing, provincewide surge in new infections, according to a pair of memos from the Ministry of Education.
The directives to school boards and childcare centre operators, written on Thursday and released by opposition critics a day later, say the provincial government is suspending the reporting of cases in these facilities because of "changes to case and contact management."
"Further information will be shared shortly with school boards on reporting expectations of absences in schools and school closures due to COVID-19, in conjunction with educational and pediatric leaders," Minister of Education Stephen Lecce and deputy minister Nancy Naylor write in one of the letters.
Lecce and Naylor's letter and the other memo sent by Holly Moran, an assistant deputy minister in the ministry's early years and child care division, do not say whether the guidelines will be distributed before the start of classes on Jan. 5.
The Ministry of Education did not respond to request for comment on the memos.
The memos were released Friday by the opposition New Democrats, who are calling for Ontario Premier Doug Ford to reverse the decision to end reporting at these institutions.
"Parents have to decide to send their kids to school not knowing if the school has a high number of COVID cases," NDP education critic Marit Stiles said, in a release.
"If we can’t track where the virus is, we can’t fight it."
She also noted on Twitter that school principals have a duty under the Health Protection and Promotion Act to report it to the local public health unit if they are "of the opinion that a pupil in the school has or may have a communicable disease."
Stiles' comments came on the heels of the province's decision Thursday to delay the return to school by two days to help schools better cope with COVID-19.
The delay was announced at the same time that the province revealed it would significantly curtail who is eligible for government-funded COVID-19 testing.
Testing is now available only for individuals in high-risk settings who are symptomatic or are at risk of severe illness from the highly transmissible Omicron variant of the virus.
The variant is causing the province's COVID-19 case counts to soar and repeatedly break records set days before.
On Saturday, Public Health Ontario said the province reached a new daily record for new COVID-19 cases.
The organization reported 18,445 more COVID-19 cases, up from the previous record set just a day earlier when there were 16,713 infections reported.
However, it warned the true number of cases is likely higher than the figure it reported for the day.
It said the number of infected Ontarians is an "underestimate" because recent policy changes have made COVID-19 testing less accessible just as cases linked to the Omicron variant are climbing.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 1, 2022.
— with files from Sarah Smellie in St. John's, N.L.
Tara Deschamps, The Canadian Press