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WATCH: COVID-19 testing for asymptomatic students, staff to begin at hot spot schools

Ontario Premier Doug Ford announced the launch of the additional testing today, saying the province will spare no expense to keep schools open

TORONTO — The Ontario government says it is starting voluntary COVID-19 testing for asymptomatic students, faculty and staff in regions with high rates of transmission.

Ontario Premier Doug Ford announced the launch of the additional testing today, saying the province will spare no expense to keep schools open.

He says the expanded testing will be provided in schools in Toronto, Peel and York regions, and Ottawa.

The province first announced the program this summer but it had not yet taken effect.

Ontario is reporting 1,478 new cases of COVID-19 today, and 21 more deaths related to the virus. 

Health Minister Christine Elliott says 572 of those cases are in Peel Region, and 356 are in Toronto.

Both regions are currently in the "lockdown" stage of the province's pandemic plan. 

Today's numbers show that 556 people are currently hospitalized with COVID-19 in the province, an increase of 33 since yesterday. 

The numbers come hours before the province is set to release new COVID-19 projections. 

It will be the first time they have released such data since sending Toronto and Peel Region into lockdown earlier this week. 

Two weeks ago, the province unveiled modelling that showed Ontario could see as many as 6,500 new daily cases of COVID-19 by mid-December unless steps are taken to limit the spread of the virus.

It said the province would reach 2,500 new daily cases by that time if the growth rate was at three per cent, or 6,500 if the growth rate was at five per cent. 

Ontario reports four more COVID deaths, 91 new cases; 78 in hospital

At the time, Dr. Adalsteinn Brown, one of the experts behind the projections, said a five per cent growth rate was "slightly optimistic.''

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Nov. 26, 2020.

The Canadian Press