Ontario reports 78 new COVID-19 cases, education minister 'unlocks' $500M for school return
New daily case count does not include data from Toronto Public Health
Ontario reported an additional 78 cases of COVID-19 on Thursday, however numbers for Toronto Public Health were not available for today's provincial update.
Of those public health units that did report new daily case counts, Peel had the most, with 19. Ottawa had 10, while Windsor-Essex had nine and Waterloo eight.
CBC News has reached out to Toronto Public Health for an explanation about its data, but has yet to receive a response.
At a news conference Thursday, Dr. David Williams, the province's chief medical health officer, called Ontario's overall direction "positive," but said people need to keep their diligence up to keep the numbers down.
"Our trends have consistently ... been coming down," he said. "You're doing great. You need to keep doing well and as you go to the next phase, we have to do that even better."
Williams estimated Thursday's total number of confirmed cases would likely fall closer to 95 had Toronto Public Health's data been included.
"I would estimate ... we may be closer to 95," said Williams. "I don't think we're over 100, that's probably the good news."
All of the figures used in this story are found in the Ministry of Health's daily update, which includes data from up until 4 p.m. the previous day. The number of cases for any particular region on a given day may differ from what is reported by the local public health unit, which often avoid lag times in the provincial system.
Ontario has now seen a total of 40,367 confirmed infections of the novel coronavirus since the outbreak began in late January. Of those, slightly less than 91 per cent are considered resolved. Another 99 cases were marked resolved in today's update.
There are currently some 891 confirmed, active cases of COVID-19 provincewide, though there are likely more given the lack of data from Toronto today. Active cases are confined mostly to the southern reaches of Ontario.
The province's network of about 30 labs processed 29,626 test samples for the novel coronavirus yesterday.
Ontario's official death toll from the virus stayed steady at 2,787. A CBC News count based on data provided by public health units puts the real toll at 2,825.
Province unlocking $500 million on ventilation, PPE for schools
At a news conference Thursday afternoon, Education Minister Stephen Lecce announced he had "unlocked" $500 million for the province's back-to-school plan.
The funding is meant to enhance physical distancing and improve air quality, along with providing PPE and boosting the number of custodians, ahead of the return to school in September.
The minister also announced an additional $50 million for upgrades to ventilation systems and $18 million for online learning amid concerns over student safety during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The half a billion dollars in funding comes after the ministry allowed school boards to dip into reserve funds. Boards that do not have reserves will be provided with funding from an $11 million allocation.
"Our plan is a living document. It is responding to needs on the ground," said Lecce.
The education minister said he is also expanding school boards' ability to access reserve funding for this particular year.
Some parents, educators and medical professionals have criticized the provincial government's strategy for students. In particular, the decision to keep elementary school class sizes at pre-pandemic levels has faced scrutiny.
In Ontario, there are no cap sizes for classes in Grades 4 through 8, only a maximum average of 24.5 across each board. That means it's not uncommon for children in high enrolment school boards to find themselves in classes of 30 or more students.
The government has said that distancing when possible, combined with a host of other measures such as self-screening by students and staff and mandatory masks for Grades 4 to 12, would keep children safe.
Premier in Windsor
Meanwhile, Ford announced $30 million through the Connecting Links program in order to build and repair roadways in the province.
The premier also met with local leaders in Windsor-Essex to discuss the region's economic recovery now that it has entered Stage 3 of Ontario's reopening plan.
Ford said he talked with area mayors about opening a new hospital, as well as expanding capacity at the region's Caesar's Casino.
"We need to take the same approach as we do with cinemas," Ford said of the casino.
"I have to protect those jobs," he said "I have to protect those folks ... same as I have to protect the automotive industry here."
The premier also toured the Ford Motor Company's Essex Engine Plant where a portion of the facility was retooled to produce plastic face shields for front-line workers during the pandemic.
With files from Lucas Powers, Ania Bessonov and The Canadian Press