Toronto’s public health agency will force all schools to close on Wednesday and have students distance learning, she said Tuesday.
Toronto Public Health (TPH) said in a statement the shutdown was needed to reverse a wave of new COVID-19 infections – the city reported 955 new cases earlier today.
Day care centers attached to schools will be allowed to open but will not be able to accommodate students whose classes have been closed under the order, TPH said.
The closure means that more than 300,000 students, including those attending private or independent schools, will resume their learning at home exclusively.
“The spread of COVID-19 has never been greater in Toronto, with worrisome variants increasing both the risk of transmission and the risk of serious illness or death,” the statement said.
TPH is using a Section 22 order – which allows the city’s medical officer of health to strengthen the rules beyond what the province has in place – to close schools to classroom learning from 7 to April 18, a period that will include the month of April. Pause. This could be extended if the situation does not improve, TPH noted.
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The Ontario government has allowed schools to remain open despite the use of a province-wide “emergency brake” to deal with the third wave of the pandemic.
Toronto Mayor John Tory said he had asked for an extra day to give parents time to prepare, but Dr Eileen de Villa, the city’s medical officer of health, said the closure was needed immediately.
“I support her in any action she deems necessary to keep people, especially our children, safe during this pandemic,” Tory said in an email.
Others also reacted quickly.
“We understand this may not be the news families hoped for, especially given the province’s recent announcement, but recognize the critical need to take action as indicated by TPH to limit the spread of COVID -19 and its worrying variants, ”said Shazia Vlahos. , spokesperson for the Toronto Catholic District School Board, in a statement to TBEN Toronto.
The move comes a day after the neighboring region of Peel chose to close its schools on Monday.
Province maintains schools are safe
Caitlin Clark, spokesperson for Ontario Education Minister Stephen Lecce, said the provincial government believes schools are safe and are not sources of transmission.
“Data shows schools have remained safe during this pandemic, as confirmed by Ontario’s chief medical officer of health and local medical officers of health,” Clark said in the email.
“We strongly believe that schools should be open to classroom learning as they are essential to student mental health and safe, as confirmed by key medical leaders in Ontario.”
The Ontario Ministry of Education on Tuesday reported 236 school-related cases across the province, including 207 students and 29 staff. About 22% of schools currently have at least one reported case, while 83 schools, or 1.7% of Ontario’s 4,828 public schools, are closed due to COVID-19.
The Children’s Health Coalition, which includes experts from a number of Ontario children’s hospitals, issued an open letter saying schools should be the last thing to close during the pandemic and that their closure harm children at risk.
“Ending in-person learning should only be done as a last resort and will be ineffective if not accompanied by other stricter measures that include things like … paid sick leave for essential workers , closing personal retail businesses to work from home, ”the letter said.
“Collectively, we have let down our children.”
You can read the full letter via the tweet below.
Declaration on School Closures, Children’s Hospitals, Mental Health Agencies and Rehabilitation Centers in #Ontario . Putting only children under a stay-at-home order is hurting the kids and won’t do much to end Wave 3. # onpoli #ottnews pic.twitter.com/H2oK2w2yKW
Meanwhile, Premier Doug Ford has hinted that further restrictions may be expected on Wednesday after sounding the alarm on crowds in shopping malls – something his government’s policy currently allows.