Ex-Liberal MP to advise on COVID-19 data collection

Ontario reported 356 additional cases of COVID-19 on Thursday as the province’s network of labs processed a record number of tests for the novel coronavirus.

The 1.2 per cent jump in cases brings the total in Ontario since the outbreak began in late January to 29,403. Of those, just short of 79 per cent are now resolved.

The province says it processed 20, 822 test samples yesterday, more than on any other single day. The figure still falls short of total capacity, however, which currently stands at about 25,000, according to the Ministry of Health.

Some 12,760 test samples are currently waiting to be processed.

Ontario’s official COVID-19 death toll jumped by 45, up to 2,357, after five straight days of increases of less than 20. Thirty-seven of the new deaths occurred in Toronto. Data compiled directly from regional public health units, however, puts the real current toll at 2,373 as of yesterday evening.

About 80 per cent of those deaths were residents in long-term care homes. The ministry says it has tracked outbreaks of the novel coronavirus in a total of 309 of the province’s 630 long-term care facilities.

There are 776 patients in Ontario hospitals with confirmed cases of COVID-19, a decrease of 15 since the last update. The number of patients being treated in intensive care units also decreased, by six down to 121. Those requiring a ventilator went up slight, to 94 from 92.

Premier Doug Ford is then scheduled to hold his daily briefing at 1 p.m. Ford’s office said he will be joined by Elliott, Minister of Children, Community and Social Services Todd Smith and Jamil Jivani, Ontario’s advocate for community opportunities.

Ex-Liberal MP to advise on COVID-19 data collection

Meanwhile, former Liberal cabinet minister and physician Jane Philpott has been appointed to help Ontario improve its COVID-19-related data collection.

Health Minister Christine Elliott said that Philpott will be a special advisor on the Ontario Health Data Platform, an initiative first announced by the government in April. During her time as an MP for Markham–Stouffville, Philpott served as the federal minister of health, Minister of Indigenous Services and President of the Treasury Board.

According to the province, the platform will provide anonymized health information to public health units, hospitals and researchers to assist their decision making.

In a video message posted online,  Elliott and Philpott said it will allow Ontario’s fragmented health-care system better detect and respond to the novel coronavirus by helping to identify especially vulnerable populations, predict when and where outbreaks may happen and track the effectiveness of treatments and preventative measures.

Ontario’s Privacy Commissioner will also be involved in the development and implementation of the platform.

Philpott, a family doctor who was ejected from the Liberal caucus in the wake of the SNC-Lavalin scandal, will also chair a ministers round table on the response to COVID-19. The round table will include representatives working in public health, medical research and privacy and clinical experts.

Throughout the pandemic, some infectious disease experts have criticized Ontario’s health data collection as outdated, inconsistent and opaque. The result has been a conspicuous lack of important information to help guide the frontline response to COVID-19, they said.

In a news release, the province said that medical professionals and researchers will be able to access the data platform in July.


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