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Ontario Education Minister: Thousands of COVID-19 Cases in Schools is a ‘Good Thing We Should Celebrate’

Ontario Education Minister Stephen Lecce is taking a glass half-full approach to COVID-19 data points in schools

Under fire in the Ontario Legislature Monday, Education Minister Stephen Lecce said the fact that only 4,107 COVID-19 cases have so far been reported in Ontario’s schools is “a good thing we should celebrate.”

In response to a question about COVID-19 infection statistics in Ontario’s schools, Lecce told the Legislature:

“Parents want the facts. Here’s a fact that I think would instill a level of confidence: if they knew that 99.95% of students are COVID-free, that 99.92% of staff are COVID-free, that 99.7% of staff have never had COVID. I appreciate that that may, for whatever reason, bring concern to you, but I think for most folks out there, they’re pleased to hear that our leadership in public health and our school boards are working together to flatten this curve, to reduce the risk and to keep our kids safe.”

Lecce then added:

“That is a good thing we should celebrate in this province.”

 

Ministry data finds Ontario’s schools have so far reported a cumulative total of 4,170 COVID-19 cases in Ontario schools, including over 2,000 students — a figure that does not appear to work out to 99.95% given Ontario has two million students.

A possible student infection rate of 0.05% to 0.1% may seem relatively small, but in raw numbers, that could mean between 80 to 161 infections for a school board with 161,000 students in in-person learning, as the Toronto District School Board does.

A TDSB spokesperson told PressProgress approximately 11,900 elementary and secondary teachers are teaching at in-person schools in the TDSB. A 0.03% infection rate would mean 36 teachers in the TDSB alone.

Ontario’s Ministry of Education provided no response to a request for numbers on how many total students are enrolled in in-person classes and how many teachers are instructing in-person classes.

The Ministry also failed to provide PressProgress with a response to questions about how Lecce arrived at his statistics.

Lecce previously told the legislature 85% of Ontario’s schools have never had a COVID-19 case — a figure which is contradicted by the Ministry’s own data.

Ontario NDP education critic Marit Stiles said Lecce is citing dubious statistics to deflect from the Ford government’s handling of the pandemic.

“The minister is cherry-picking stats that don’t reflect the fact that cases are rising, especially in key hot spots,” Stiles told PressProgress.

“We see the ministry hasn’t even reduced class sizes in most of the province — and then they talk about numbers and data points,” Stiles added.

“Those numbers and data points are kids”

Krista Wylie, a spokesperson for Fix Our Schools, said Lecce and Ford have pushed through a “completely underfunded back to school plan that is completely on the backs of the most marginalized.”

“In order to stay safe, these families have had to keep their children home — which I expect is not a workable solution in the long-run,” Wylie said.

Ford’s government has been repeatedly criticized for failing to mandate smaller classes and to ensure adequate funding for supplies and sanitation.

 

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PressProgress is an award-winning non-profit news organization focused on uncovering and unpacking the news through original investigative and explanatory journalism.

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