Ontario is dropping its daily reporting of COVID-19 statistics online, a move that will make it harder for people to get a sense of risk levels as the virus continues to circulate, critics say.
The Ministry of Health announced the change Friday, saying the decision was made to switch to weekly reporting on Thursdays because COVID-19 levels are “continuing to improve” and most mask mandates are being lifted.
The seven-day average of new cases fell to 767 on Friday from 929 reported on June 1.
While the figures on daily infections at the government’s COVID-19 in Ontario website have been “less reliable” since PCR testing was limited to health-care workers and other select groups over the last six months, statistics on hospitalizations and intensive care unit occupancy have remained helpful, said epidemiologist Todd Coleman of Wilfrid Laurier University.
“It does eliminate a tool that some people are using to gauge risk,” he said of the change, while acknowledging statistics show infection levels are down nicely in recent weeks.
“It’s actually looking pretty decent at the moment.”
Coleman recommended Ontarians keep track of reporting on wastewater testing for COVID-19 by their local public health units for any changes in infection trends.
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The government website reported 835 new cases in its Friday morning update, with 536 people in hospital for COVID-19. There were 110 in intensive care units, 10 deaths and 60 per cent of Ontarians have had a booster shot for the virus.
In long-term-care homes, where mask requirements remain in place, there were 47 new cases in residents and nine in staff, with 74 homes experiencing outbreaks.
“The majority of other provinces in Canada have already done this,” Health Ministry spokeswoman Alexandra Hilkene said of the less-frequent reporting.
“If things ramp up with COVID, we can always ramp this back up,” she added.
In another change, the Verify Ontario app used for proof-of-vaccination checks at bars, restaurants, sports arenas and other venues will soon be discontinued and will be removed from the app store by June 24. Proof-of-vaccination requirements were dropped weeks ago.
Rob Ferguson is a Toronto-based reporter covering Ontario politics for the Star. Follow him on Twitter: @robferguson1
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