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Keep schools and daycares closed says U of G study

U of G research finds new COVID-19 cases climbing among youth
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The following article was provided by University of Guelph News Services

Keep schools and daycare centres closed.

That’s the key message from a new study by University of Guelph researchers that found numbers of new COVID-19 cases continue to climb among under-20s in Ontario.

Although infection curves were flattening as of mid-May for other age groups in the province, numbers of daily new cases for under 20-year-olds were still rising, especially in Toronto and Peel region. Numbers of new cases also continued to climb among 20 to 29-year-olds in Peel region, even as the province-wide curve for that age group has levelled off, said engineering professor Ed McBean.

“COVID-19 cases are still increasing in Ontario’s under-20 population,” said McBean.

The study has not yet been submitted to a peer-reviewed journal.

In May, the Ontario government announced that schools will not reopen this spring. Schools and child care centres in several other provinces have reopened.

McBean said the results support the continued closure of schools and child care centres in Ontario.

Although schools have been cancelled for the rest of this spring, daycare centres face more pressure to reopen, particularly as parents look to return to work.

“Reopening schools and daycares would risk dramatic increases in COVID-19 in the under-19 age group and threaten the progress being made to flatten the curve in other age categories,” said McBean. “These findings support the continued closure of schools and daycares in the Toronto and Peel region in particular, at least for this school year.”

McBean analyzed data from Ontario public health units long with engineering professor Andrew Gadsden, PhD student Brett Snider and John Yawney, chief analytics officer with Adastra Corp., an information management and data science firm in Markham.

Under federal funding last month from the Alliance COVID-19 grant program of the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council, the team is using artificial intelligence models to collect and analyze data on regional coronavirus infection levels along with demographic and behavioural information.

The researchers aim to predict future impacts of the pandemic in health care in Canada.

Their key findings:


  • Among under-20s outside of Toronto and Peel, there were about eight cases of COVID-19 reported each day through the first half of April. That number declined to about six per day by the end of May.
  • Cases in both Peel and Toronto continue to climb. In Peel, cases rose from about two per day in mid-April to about nine by the end of May. Over the same period, Toronto cases have risen from about four per day to more than 10.

20 to 29-year-olds

  • Public health units outside of Toronto and Peel recorded a rapid increase in cases through early March, reaching nearly 30 per day by mid-April. Daily cases then declined to about 20 by the end of May.
  • In Toronto, cases in this age group rose more gradually to about 20 per day by May 1; cases levelled off slightly to about 18 by the end of May. Peel region saw an even more gradual increase since March; numbers of daily cases reached more than 20 and were continuing to rise at the end of May.

McBean hopes to analyze similar data from other provinces.

He said he doesn’t know why the under-20 results differ, although he suspects frustration over lockdown measures is rising among children and teens as well as their parents.

“Other age groupings are behaving well,” he said. Referring to physical distancing, mask-wearing and other measures, he added, “What we’re doing to reduce the numbers with older age categories is helping. We need to continue doing it.”

The researchers did not analyze differences among groups within the under-20s.

McBean said universities and colleges have largely moved to online learning, meaning that results for 18- to 20-year-olds are probably less worrisome.

“Most universities appear to be handling the pandemic well, as many are moving to online courses fort the fall term.”

He plans to use further NSERC funding to test cleaning protocols at long-term care facilities.


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