Skip to main content
The Globe and Mail
Support Quality Journalism.
The Globe and Mail
First Access to Latest
Investment News
Collection of curated
e-books and guides
Inform your decisions via
Globe Investor Tools
per week
for first 24 weeks

Enjoy unlimited digital access
Cancel Anytime
Enjoy Unlimited Digital Access
Get full access to
Just $1.99per week for the first 24weeks
Just $1.99per week for the first 24weeks
var select={root:".js-sub-pencil",control:".js-sub-pencil-control",open:"o-sub-pencil--open",closed:"o-sub-pencil--closed"},dom={},allowExpand=!0;function pencilInit(o){var e=arguments.length>1&&void 0!==arguments[1]&&arguments[1];select.root=o,dom.root=document.querySelector(select.root),dom.root&&(dom.control=document.querySelector(select.control),dom.control.addEventListener("click",onToggleClicked),setPanelState(e),window.addEventListener("scroll",onWindowScroll),dom.root.removeAttribute("hidden"))}function isPanelOpen(){return dom.root.classList.contains(}function setPanelState(o){dom.root.classList[o?"add":"remove"](,dom.root.classList[o?"remove":"add"](select.closed),dom.control.setAttribute("aria-expanded",o)}function onToggleClicked(){var l=!isPanelOpen();setPanelState(l)}function onWindowScroll(){window.requestAnimationFrame(function() {var l=isPanelOpen(),n=0===(document.body.scrollTop||document.documentElement.scrollTop);n||l||!allowExpand?n&&l&&(allowExpand=!0,setPanelState(!1)):(allowExpand=!1,setPanelState(!0))});}pencilInit(".js-sub-pencil",!1); // via darwin-bg var slideIndex = 0; carousel(); function carousel() { var i; var x = document.getElementsByClassName("subs_valueprop"); for (i = 0; i < x.length; i++) { x[i].style.display = "none"; } slideIndex++; if (slideIndex> x.length) { slideIndex = 1; } x[slideIndex - 1].style.display = "block"; setTimeout(carousel, 2500); } //

Toronto Public Health says the city’s schools are continuing to succeed at minimizing coronavirus outbreaks despite having to contend with a significant surge in infections outside their walls since the academic year began.

Data presented to the Toronto Board of Health on Monday show that while schools account for 20 per cent of all outbreaks in the city since the second wave of the pandemic began, they are the source of just 8.6 per cent of COVID-19 cases related to outbreaks.

No more than nine cases have been linked to any one school outbreak, said Effie Gournis, Toronto Public Health’s associate director of integration, information and surveillance. A school outbreak is defined as at least two lab-confirmed cases linked to each other within 14 days.

Story continues below advertisement

“This further suggests that infection-control measures are working in schools,” Ms. Gournis told the board. “The increase in case reports in our communities would certainly increase the probability that an infectious child or staff member could arrive at school at any time. However, this looks like it has been successfully contained so far.”

The opposite situation is unfolding in the city’s long-term care and retirement homes, Ms. Gournis added. Those facilities also account for 20 per cent of the 306 coronavirus outbreaks Toronto has identified since Aug. 1, but 61 per cent of outbreak-related cases of COVID-19 – meaning that when the coronavirus has invaded seniors' facilities, it has tended to infect far more people than when it slips into schools.

The question of what role schools play in the spread of the coronavirus has been hotly debated since the beginning of the pandemic. Clear answers are still hard to find because so much depends on the amount of virus circulating in the community, and on the infection-control measures taken inside schools, including masking and physical distancing.

Masks are required for staff and students of all ages at Toronto public and Catholic schools, and at many other boards in Ontario.

In Quebec, where full-time, in-person attendance is compulsory in primary school and masks are not, students and school staff are a steadily increasing share of cases and outbreaks. That isn’t the case in Ontario, according to a Globe and Mail analysis of data from Canada’s two largest provinces, both of which have seen their overall case counts soar to new heights in the past two weeks.

In Quebec, schools accounted for 21 per cent of the province’s cases, an increase of five percentage points over five weeks. In Ontario, schools accounted for 7 per cent of all cases. That figure has held steady at between 7 and 9 per cent since the second week of school.

Still, Quebec government and public-health officials say schools are not the main driver of community transmission. Workplaces account for more than half of the province’s outbreaks. “In the majority of cases, school cases are coming from family members rather than the schools themselves,” said Jean Nicolas Aubé, a Montreal public-health spokesperson.

Story continues below advertisement

In Toronto, Ms. Gournis said it does not appear that high-school outbreaks are behind an increase in the percentage of teenagers whose coronavirus tests are coming back positive.

People between the ages of 14 and 17 had the highest test-positivity rate of any age group in Toronto – 7.58 per cent – the week of Oct. 25, the most recent week for which complete data is available. Young adults between the ages of 18 and 23 had the second-highest positivity rate the same week.

Janine McCready, an infectious diseases physician at Toronto’s Michael Garron Hospital (MGH,) said that in speaking to teenagers who’ve tested positive for COVID-19, she has found that, “it’s not in-class contacts, but it’s the whole process of going to school and then hanging out with their friends after school.”

Many also risk being exposed at part-time jobs, she added.

Dr. McCready has been leading MGH’s efforts to take testing directly to east-end Toronto schools. The hospital has performed more than 400 tests for nearly 20 schools, including by operating pop-up clinics inside some schools.

Dr. McCready said she is growing more concerned about students who pick up the virus at school taking it home to their families, particularly in the hardest-hit pockets of Toronto.

Story continues below advertisement

“To date, the numbers [in schools] have been encouraging, but the issue is that as the numbers continue to rise it becomes more and more challenging to keep the schools safe and keep the numbers low,” she said.

with files from Les Perreaux and Chen Wang

Sign up for the Coronavirus Update newsletter to read the day’s essential coronavirus news, features and explainers written by Globe reporters and editors.

Your Globe

Build your personal news feed

  1. Follow topics and authors relevant to your reading interests.
  2. Check your Following feed daily, and never miss an article. Access your Following feed from your account menu at the top right corner of every page.

Follow the author of this article:

Follow topics related to this article:

View more suggestions in Following Read more about following topics and authors
Report an error Editorial code of conduct
Due to technical reasons, we have temporarily removed commenting from our articles. We hope to have this fixed soon. Thank you for your patience. If you are looking to give feedback on our new site, please send it along to If you want to write a letter to the editor, please forward to

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff. Non-subscribers can read and sort comments but will not be able to engage with them in any way. Click here to subscribe.

If you would like to write a letter to the editor, please forward it to Readers can also interact with The Globe on Facebook and Twitter .

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff. Non-subscribers can read and sort comments but will not be able to engage with them in any way. Click here to subscribe.

If you would like to write a letter to the editor, please forward it to Readers can also interact with The Globe on Facebook and Twitter .

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff.

We aim to create a safe and valuable space for discussion and debate. That means:

  • Treat others as you wish to be treated
  • Criticize ideas, not people
  • Stay on topic
  • Avoid the use of toxic and offensive language
  • Flag bad behaviour

If you do not see your comment posted immediately, it is being reviewed by the moderation team and may appear shortly, generally within an hour.

We aim to have all comments reviewed in a timely manner.

Comments that violate our community guidelines will not be posted.

UPDATED: Read our community guidelines here

Discussion loading ...

To view this site properly, enable cookies in your browser. Read our privacy policy to learn more.
How to enable cookies