Covid-19 schools

Ontario schools to reopen for in-person learning on Monday

Ontario schools will reopen for in-person learning on Monday Jan. 17, multiple reports suggest.

​​Schools were originally set to return on Jan. 3, but the provincial government delayed the return by two days, to Jan. 5, to give schools time to provide N95 masks to staff and distribute 3,000 more HEPA filter units.

Last week Monday, Doug Ford’s cabinet announced that all publicly funded and private schools would move to remote learning from Jan. 5 until at least Jan. 17 (subject to public health trends/operational considerations) due to rising COVID-19 cases driven by the Omicron variant. Ford noted that the two-week period would provide time for more vaccines and boosters to be administered.

Still, many were left wondering if the Jan. 17 reopening date would stick in the face of Omicron, but Ford confirmed with multiple media outlets that students will return to class on Monday as planned. The reaction online isn’t as enthusiastic, with many worrying about increasing hospital admissions.

Education Minister Stephen Lecce is scheduled to discuss the issue on Wednesday, but on Monday he announced that retired Ontario educators would be allowed to work more days this school year, in a bid to address staff shortages.

“We need staff in order to continue providing live teacher-led remote learning and safely operate our schools when students return to in-person learning,” Lecce’s wrote in a statement.

“That is why we have now secured an agreement with the Ontario Teachers’ Federation that will deliver access to thousands of teacher-qualified educators that will help keep schools open and safe.”

In a press briefing on Tuesday afternoon, Health Minister Christine Elliott noted that the extra 2 weeks gave time for teachers to get the second dose of the vaccine, or a booster, and that the province received millions more masks for teachers and students during that time.

On Tuesday, Ontario reported 7,951 new cases of COVID-19, with 3,220 hospitalizations due to COVID (an increase from the 1,290 patients reported hospitalized on the same day last week). Out of these hospitalizations, 54% were admitted to hospital specifically seeking treatment for COVID-19, while 46% were admitted for other reasons, but tested positive for COVID-19.

There are 477​ people with COVID-19 in ICUs—an increase from 438 patients reported the day before and 266 from last week.

Approximately 83 per cent were admitted to the ICU seeking treatment for COVID-19 and 17 per cent were admitted for other reasons but have tested positive for the illness, according to the dataset.

At the press briefing, Elliott noted that the province is collaborating with Ontario Health and the Colleges of Nurses of Ontario to deploy approximately 700 trained nurses to hospitals. She added that 600 ICU beds remain available today, but Ontario can add nearly 500 additional beds if needed.

To date, 28,693,247 vaccine doses have been administered, with over 141,000 doses administered on Monday; 91.1% of Ontarians 12+ have one dose and 88.5% have two doses.

Click here for more COVID-19 Ontario news and here for where you could get rapid COVID-19 tests in Toronto (including a new drive-thru option).

Article exclusive to STREETS OF TORONTO