Top doctor says schools are safe as Ontario reports 1,145 new COVID-19 cases

·3 min read
Students across Ontario are heading back to physical classrooms this week - but concerns are lingering about whether safety preparations are up to the task of keeping infections at a minimum.  (CBC/Radio-Canada - image credit)
Students across Ontario are heading back to physical classrooms this week - but concerns are lingering about whether safety preparations are up to the task of keeping infections at a minimum. (CBC/Radio-Canada - image credit)

Ontario's school preparation plan is being put to the test as students in Ontario head back to class this week.

"This is an exciting time," said Ontario's Chief Medical Officer Dr. Kieran Moore at a news conference as the school year began Tuesday for.children in some parts of the province.

"We have made incredible strides as a province to confidently get our children back in the classroom."

Meanwhile, Ontario reported an additional 1,145 cases of COVID-19 from over the last two days.

Because of the Labour Day long weekend, the province published two days worth of data on Tuesday. A total of 581 new COVID-19 cases were reported on Monday with another 564 on Tuesday.

Of the 581 cases reported on Monday with a known vaccination status:

  • 351, or 60.4 per cent, were in unvaccinated people.

  • 64, or 11 per cent, had a single dose.

  • 124, or 21.3 per cent, had two doses.

Of the 564 cases reported on Tuesday with a known vaccination status:

  • 339, or 60.1 per cent, were in unvaccinated people.

  • 37, or 6.5 per cent, had a single dose.

  • 130, or 23 per cent, had two doses.

Most boards reopen Tuesday

Classes resumed today in a number of school boards, including the Bluewater District School Board, the District School Board of Niagara and the Halton District School Board.

Some other boards — including the largest, the Toronto District School Board — will start classes on Thursday.

This will be the third school year in which classes are affected by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Ontario's Ministry of Education has sent guidelines to schools in a bid to slow the spread of the virus, which include requirements that staff and students self-screen for COVID-19 each day and wear masks indoors.

All schools without mechanical ventilation systems must be equipped with a standalone HEPA unit, according to an announcement made by the government last month.

CBC/Radio-Canada
CBC/Radio-Canada

Vaccination is not mandatory for teachers or eligible students under Ontario's back-to-school plan, which also allows for extracurricular activities and field trips to resume.

Unvaccinated Ontario teachers and school staff will need to be tested for COVID-19 twice per week.

The ministry has required that all boards offer a remote learning option for students who don't feel comfortable in the classroom due to the pandemic.

The government's reopening plan was criticized by opposition parties and some parents when it was released last month.

The Elementary Teachers Federation of Ontario (ETFO) was also critical, calling the plan "incomplete and inadequate."

COVID-19 symptom list changed

The province recently removed "runny nose" and "headache" from the list of COVID-19 symptoms that require children to stay home from school and get tested for COVID-19.

On Tuesday, Moore said those symptoms were excluded because it led to a small number of positive COVID-19 tests and resulted in an "undue burden" for parents.

"We thought from a patient perspective and from a parent perspective that this was the best solution," he said, adding that children experiencing those symptoms should still stay home until their symptoms resolve.

Moore also said he hopes there will be an update soon on when children aged five to 11 can be vaccinated, saying "we may get information in early winter for a possible rollout for that population."

Here are some key pandemic indicators and figures for Tuesday from the Ministry of Health's daily provincial update:

Seven-day average of daily cases: 747.

Tests completed: 17,118.

Provincewide test positivity rate: 3.4 per cent.

Active cases: 6,272.

Patients in ICU with COVID-related illnesses: 165, with 113 needing a ventilator to breathe.

Deaths: Five more deaths, pushing the death toll to 9,553.

Vaccinations: 14,391 doses of COVID-19 vaccine were administered by public health units on Monday. About 77.2 per cent of eligible Ontarians, or those aged 12 and older, have now had two doses. That represents 68.3 per cent of the province's total population.

Ontario: New daily cases of COVID-19

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