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Coronavirus: Ontario COVID-19 school testing program finds 0.86% positivity rate among 3,706 tests

Click to play video 'Toronto teacher shares concerns about school reopening amid new COVID-19 variants' Toronto teacher shares concerns about school reopening amid new COVID-19 variants
WATCH ABOVE (Feb. 15): Mary Canavan, a grade 6 and 7 Toronto Catholic School Board teacher, shares her concerns as students head back to the classroom amid the spread of new COVID variants. – Feb 15, 2021

The latest data from the Ontario government’s asymptomatic school testing program continues to show low COVID-19 rates in schools.

All public school boards in the province have now reopened to in-class learning after an extended winter break followed by virtual learning for some boards in hot spot regions.

The voluntary testing took place from the end of January into mid-February where 32 cases were found after 3,706 tests were conducted in Peel Region, Toronto, Hamilton, Ottawa and Sudbury.

Read more: Ontario government to ramp up rapid testing in schools, LTCs and some workplaces in coming weeks

In Peel, testing was done on Feb. 12 and Feb. 13 at 336 schools. Ninety-three people were tested and one COVID-19 case was confirmed (with two tests still pending) for a 1.07 per cent positivity rate.

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In Toronto, testing took place between Feb. 11 to Feb. 13 at 40 schools where 917 tests were conducted. Eleven cases were confirmed for a 1.19 per cent positivity rate.

For Hamilton, testing took place on Feb. 13 at two schools. Eighty-six people were tested and zero cases were confirmed.

In Ottawa, testing took place on Jan. 30 and Jan. 31; Feb. 6 and Feb. 7; and Feb. 13 to Feb. 15 at 35 schools. Twenty cases were confirmed from 2,336 tests for a 0.86 per cent positivity rate.

The government said “some of the testing was offered to symptomatic and asymptomatic students, staff and household members.”

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Finally, in Sudbury, testing between Jan. 29 and Feb. 3 at three schools where 274 tests were conducted with zero confirmed cases.

In total, testing took place at 416 schools where a total of 3,706 tests were conducted and 32 COVID-19 cases were confirmed for a 0.86 per cent positivity rate.

Read more: Ontario reports more than 1,000 new coronavirus cases, 11 more deaths

“Our government has taken action to deploy asymptomatic testing province-wide, the first program of its kind in Canada, as we recognize its strength as an additional layer of protection in our schools,” said Ontario Education Minister Stephen Lecce in a statement on Monday.

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“I encourage all students, staff and families to take advantage of this program – which uses the least invasive testing options possible –  when offered for their school community,” he continued.

Ontario schools boards have been told by the government to offer targeted asymptomatic testing in at least five per cent of their elementary and secondary schools, reaching two per cent of their student populations weekly.

READ MORE: Coronavirus: Ontario government announces postponement of March Break

“Our priority is keeping schools safe and open. That is why we will continue to follow the best expert medical advice and continue to implement strict measures to protect our schools and our province,” Lecce said.

In the last 14 days, the province said there are 340 cases reported among students and 66 cases among staff (three individuals were not identified) — totaling 409 cases.

The COVID-19 cases are currently from 278 out of 4,828 schools in the province. Ten schools in Ontario are currently closed as a result of positive cases, the government indicated.

Since the onset of the coronavirus pandemic, government figures show there have been a total of 7,998 school-related COVID-19 cases in Ontario to date — 5,560 among students and 1,312 among staff (1,126 individuals were not identified).

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Read more: Ontario students told to stay home if family member has single COVID-19 symptom

On Friday, the Ford government also updated its COVID-19 screening tool to say that if anyone in a household tests positive or is awaiting tests results, students should be kept at home.

Lecce’s office said the change was made on the recommendation of the province’s chief medical officer of health Dr. David Williams.