The province is looking to change the way it tracks COVID-19 in Ontario. The government announced on June 15 it's trying to make it mandatory for all regional health units to collect and report data about the virus based on people's race, among other factors. This move follows advice from public health experts and leaders.

The proposal was announced by Health Minister Christine Elliott on Monday afternoon during the live daily briefing.

According to a press release, Ontario wants all health units to be forced to report COVID-19 data based on potential indicators including race, income, language, and household size.

"We recognize that some Ontarians may be at greater risk of COVID-19 infection. This includes racialized Ontarians and individuals with lower incomes," said Elliott via the statement.

"Collecting these data will help guide decisions as work continues to stop the spread of the virus and protect some of our most vulnerable people."

In practice, this will work by asking people who have tested positive to answer questions on their history and lifestyle.

Each individual will be able to decide whether or not they want to answer, as well as have their privacy protected.

According to The Canadian Press via Global News, Ontario had already given the green light to collect race-based data voluntarily in cities like Ottawa, Toronto, Sudbury and Middlesex-London.

In Toronto, for example, the city's Medical Officer of Health has acknowledged the virus is hitting lower-income and immigrant residents in the city much harder than others.

CP notes Toronto City Council and its board of health wrote to Elliott and Ontario’s CMO of health Dr. David Williams earlier in June to urge them to make this change mandatory.

 

Public Health Ontario has similarly noted that the most diverse or poorest neighbourhoods in the province are three times more likely to get the virus than the least diverse or wealthiest.

Now, the Ontario government is looking to expand that data collection across all health units for the purposes of tracking the pandemic.

However, provincial NDP leader Andrea Horwath argues the policy should have been introduced earlier and more widely.

"Long overdue and still falls short," Howarth wrote on Twitter on Monday afternoon.

"For years, Liberal & Conservative govts refused to collect race-based data in health care. Now, Ontario is months behind and is limiting it just to #COVID19. We'll keep the pressure on, because data will help build equity and improve care."

The government release adds it will look to work with groups like the Ontario Anti-Racism Directorate and Indigenous partners in collecting the data.

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