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Ontario schools in COVID-19 hotspots should have proactive testing: Hunter

Click to play video 'Ontario Premier Ford says province is planning for pro-active testing in COVID-19 hot spots as students return to schools' Ontario Premier Ford says province is planning for pro-active testing in COVID-19 hot spots as students return to schools
WATCH ABOVE: Ontario Premier Doug Ford says his government is planning for pro-active testing of COVID-19 in active hot spots around the province as students get ready to return to the classrooms in the fall – Aug 20, 2020

TORONTO — A former Ontario education minister says the province should proactively test for COVID-19 at schools in virus hotspots around the province.

Mitzie Hunter says in a letter to Health Minister Christine Elliott that the government should conduct “surveillance” testing to protect students and staff at these schools.

The legislator, who was education minister in the previous Liberal government, says testing should be optional, but argues it would give parents greater peace of mind as school starts next month.

She says testing should be conducted before the start of classes and continue into the beginning of the school year.

Elliott’s office did not immediately provide comment on Hunter’s letter.

The province announced its plan to reopen schools last month and has been under pressure to reduce elementary class sizes to increase physical distancing among students.

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Coronavirus: Ontario health official explains why mandatory testing not being used for teachers – Jul 30, 2020

Read more: Ontario reports 76 new coronavirus cases, system issue misses 11 public health units

Ontario reported 76 new cases of COVID-19 on Thursday and one new death related to the virus.

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The province also reported 76 newly resolved cases.

The total number of cases now stands at 41,048, which includes 2,793 deaths and 37,291 cases marked as resolved.

Health Minister Christine Elliott said that due to an issue with province’s reporting system, data was not available today from 11 of Ontario’s 34 public health units.

Elliott said hospitalizations and patients on ventilators both declined Thursday, as intensive care admissions remained stable.

The province was able to complete 25,917 tests over the previous day.

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Read more: Ontario government extends COVID-19 pandemic orders until Sept. 22

The Ontario government also extended its emergency orders on Thursday, saying it continues to need the tools to address the COVID-19 pandemic.

Solicitor General Sylvia Jones said that while virus cases continue to go down, the province will extend most orders until Sept. 22.

Orders restricting activities under Stage 3, governing health-care worker redeployment and management of long-term care homes remain in place.

The province said it will let some orders lapse, including one that allowed school boards to redeploy workers to health-care facilities to respond to the pandemic.

That emergency order will expire on Aug. 31.

Jones said the government is conducting ongoing reviews of all of the orders to determine if they are still necessary.