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Ontario schools report 286 active COVID-19 cases, 25 in Toronto

Ontario’s public school boards reported 286 active cases of COVID-19 on Tuesday (an increase from the 189 cases reported the previous day), with 109 active cases of COVID-19 reported in the Greater Toronto and Hamilton Area (GTHA).

The Toronto District School Board reported the most cases in the region—25 (18 students and 7 staff) from 24 different schools, while the Dufferin-Peel Catholic District School Board reported 16 confirmed or probable active COVID-19 cases.

In a press release on Monday, Toronto Public Health noted that in-person learning is essential for the mental and physical wellbeing of students and that it is not unexpected to have cases related to the school setting, even during the first week of school, as cases in school settings often reflect what is happening in the broader community.

“It is not unexpected that we’ve started to see COVID-19 cases in our school settings as we continue living with this virus,” Medical Officer of Health Dr. Eileen de Villa said in a press release.  “Vaccination continues to be our best defense against this virus.  It provides protection for those receiving the vaccine and for others around them. This is why we continue to remind everyone who is eligible to get vaccinated as soon as they are able if they have not yet done so.”

Still, the rising numbers are sparking debates across social media.

Meanwhile, on Monday, trustees at Hamilton-Wentworth District School Board (HWDSB) approved a mandatory COVID-19 vaccination procedure for all staff, trustees, service providers, and volunteers, requiring them to provide proof of full vaccination against COVID-19, while adhering to legislated privacy standards.

For those not adhering to requirements by a deadline, staff is directed to develop steps such as limiting access to physical HWDSB environments.

“Keeping schools open has been deemed a priority for children’s learning, mental health, and well-being,” Trustee Alex Johnstone’s motion read. “It is incumbent upon society to protect children under 12 who are ineligible to be vaccinated at this time and vulnerable populations who are at highest risk of developing complications from COVID-19.”

Vaccines continue to be a divisive issue. On Monday, demonstrators protested against vaccine mandates/COVID-19 public health measures outside hospitals across Canada and at Queens Park. The protests were organized by an organization dubbed Canadian Frontline Nurses but were widely condemned by the public, politicians, and other health officials.

The Registered Nurses’ Association of Ontario (RNAO) and the Ontario Medical Association (OMA), in a joint statement, called for safe zones around hospitals and other health settings where patients seek the care they need and where healthcare professionals work.

“We respect democracy and the rights of people to protest but these must not be held anywhere where they block entry and exit to health-care facilities, especially access for emergency vehicles or patients seeking emergency care,” the statement reads. “The RNAO and OMA also say charges must be pressed against anyone engaging in harassment, aggression or hate speech if these protests take place.”

On Tuesday, Ontario reported 577 COVID-19 cases, bringing the total number of provincial cases to 575,796.  Health Minister Christine Elliott noted that 452 cases are in individuals who are not fully vaccinated or have an unknown vaccination status and 125 are in fully vaccinated individuals.

Officials also reported seven new COVID-19 deaths, bringing the provincial total to 9,624. Six of the deaths occurred within the past month, while one occurred more than a month ago (but was added as part of a data-clean up).

In Ontario, 21,212,026 vaccine doses have been administered. Nearly 84.5% of Ontarians 12+ have one dose and 78.2% have two doses. As of publication, 363 people are hospitalized with COVID-19; a total of 325 are not fully vaccinated or have an unknown vaccination status and 38 are fully vaccinated.

Click here for more COVID-19 Ontario updates.

Article exclusive to STREETS OF TORONTO