P.E.I. schools will not resume in-person learning until at least Jan. 24. The original plan was for students to return to classrooms Jan. 17.
Premier Dennis King announced the delay in in-class learning at a briefing Thursday.
COVID-19 case counts on the Island have grown over the last week, with daily averages increasing.
That's what led to the decision to delay.
"When we open we want to do everything we can to stay open," King said. "Because we know the starts and stops are even more challenging and troubling."
That's where home testing, masking, air quality improvements and other measures come in, he said.
"Despite our best efforts and preparations, there will be cases of COVID-19 in the schools," said Chief Public Health Officer Dr. Heather Morrison. "Our aim will be to minimize disruption in learning for students and for P.E.I. families in general."
Exams for high school students will also be cancelled for the term. Education Minister Natalie Jameson said high-stakes education testing would be inappropriate and unfair to students. Marks for those students will be based on class-based assessments.
Watching the next 2 weeks
"We believe it will be another two weeks before we see the worst of this wave," said Morrison. "But while we are taking steps to decrease the slope of this curve and flatten the peak, we cannot predict how high the peak of this wave will be."
Right now, there are eight people being treated in hospital for COVID-19, and one person in the intensive care unit.
The province announced 209 new cases of COVID-19 and 1,964 active cases on P.E.I. There have been 3,636 total cases. Over the last seven days, there have been an average of 192 cases per day.
"I know how deep you've dug, how hard you've pushed," said King. "We do have to ask you to push just a little bit harder."
There is a new outbreak at the Atlantic Baptist long-term care facility. Four residents and three staff tested positive and further testing is happening Thursday.
There are now 13 residents and three staff who are positive at the Garden Home long-term care facility.
At the Provincial Correctional Centre, there are seven staff members and three offenders who have COVID-19. One additional offender is also positive but not linked to the outbreak.
There are now 11 early-learning centres with cases or clusters of cases on the Island. Four are still open, four are closed and three are open offering modified or limited services.
We do have to ask you to push just a little bit harder. - Premier Dennis King
There are seven cases in the outreach community in Charlottetown.
There are no new cases at the Miscouche Villa from the previously reported outbreak. The next round of testing is Friday.
As of Wednesday, 95.9 per cent of Islanders over 12 have one dose of COVID-19 vaccine and 56.1 per cent of children five to 11 have had one dose.
Financial and home learning support available
The province announced a school-based support program for students who are struggling with at-home learning — particularly those struggling with academics or who have problems in their home life.
Substitute teachers will be at schools to help those students with at-home learning.
The province also gave an update on the weekly child-care allowance that it previously announced.
"Currently we have around 300 families receiving the allowance," Jameson said. "Our aim is to be as flexible as possible."
There will be an update on plans for schools beyond Jan. 24 next week.