On the eve of grade-school students returning to classrooms for the first time in 2022, the Newfoundland and Labrador government says the province will remain in a modified version of Alert Level 4.
Newfoundland and Labrador has been in Level 4 of its tiered system of pandemic restrictions since Jan. 4, after cases began spiking in every region of the province during the holidays. The next COVID-19 briefing is scheduled for Wednesday.
Haggie said last week reopening schools would be a higher priority than changing alert levels.
"I think there will be a move to do that first. And it may be, given the epidemiology, that we take it in a very slow and steady pace," he said Jan. 17.
Via a media release Monday afternoon from the Department of Health, the province said 21 people — a new high — are hospitalized due to COVID-19, five of them in critical care.
The department is also reporting Newfoundland and Labrador's 31st death due to the coronavirus — a man in his 60s in the province's Western Health region. It's the 12th death in the province in the last three weeks.
N.L. COVID-19 Hospitalizations
The department reported 349 new cases Monday: 274 in the Eastern Health region, 42 in the Central Health region, 25 in the Western Health region and eight in the Labrador-Grenfell region.
The new cases, offset by 335 recoveries, raise the province's known active caseload to 2,669.
The province completed 2,015 tests since Sunday for a test positivity rate of 17.3 per cent. A total of 470,445 tests have been completed since March 2020.
On Thursday, the province announced schools will reopen to in-class instruction Tuesday.
Newfoundland and Labrador English School District CEO Tony Stack said Monday the district will be emphasizing standard safety practices, including handwashing, encouraging students and staff to stay home when they're sick, maintaining physical distance when possible and disinfecting surfaces.
"The biggest difference … is renewed emphasis on the masking and a slight change in that the recommendation is for three-layered masks," Stack told CBC News on Monday morning. "The mask is the key protective feature going forward."
Stack said there is special consideration for completely virtual schooling for students who are immunocompromised. He said 29 students have been enrolled in that since September — 20 students from kindergarten to Grade 9 and nine high school students.
He said those circumstances are very rare, and those students have documented situations signed off by a specialist.
"There is a limited number, a finite number, of individuals that we can put into the role of teaching students in situations such as that," Stack said. "If we were going to increase it through any means we'd have to do so based on our existing resources."