school reopening covid

Ontario reports more than 300 new COVID-19 cases for the first time since June

Ontario reported 340 new cases of COVID-19 on Friday—the highest number reported since June 26, when the province reported 346 infections. The province also recorded 18 new deaths (16 of these deaths occurred more than six weeks ago, but are being reported as part of today’s data, according to the Ministry of Health), bringing the total number of COVID-19 deaths in the province to 9,392.

Out of the new COVID-19 cases, 80 were reported in Toronto, 41 in York Region, 36 in Peel Region, 23 in Windsor-Essex, and 22 in the Region of Waterloo.

As of Friday morning, 19,764,199 doses of the COVID-19 vaccine have been administered. Approximately 71.384% of people 12+ in Ontario are fully vaccinated and 81.442% of people 12+ in Ontario have received at least one dose.

Meanwhile, there are still no provincial plans to mandate COVID-19 vaccinations for students and staff when in-person learning resumes in September.

“The government has made a decision in the context of mandating vaccines—we’re not going to do that,” Ontario Education Minister Stephen Lecce said on Wednesday, although he added that the province will continue to advocate the immunization campaign.

Lecce noted that due to the province’s health and safety measures for schools (included in the provincial government’s back-to-school plan, which was unveiled on Tuesday), students will have a safe path to “return to a more normal, in-person, full-time learning environment,” which is critical to their mental and physical health.

The plan dictates that students will be able to attend school in-person five days per week (unless they opt for online learning). Students (from grades 1 to 12) and staff will be required to wear masks while indoors, in exception for meals or during low-contact physical activities.

Elementary school students will be in cohorts, which means they will be with the same group of children and have one teacher. For secondary schools—school boards will ensure student schedules have only two in-person classes.

The back-to-school plan was updated on Wednesday to allow for high-contact sports indoors after approval from Dr. Kieran Moore, Ontario’s chief medical officer of health.

“We think this will really help restore that positive learning experience for the physical and mental health of children,” Moore said in a press conference on Wednesday.

Other key measures of the plan will include:

  • Screening: All staff and students must self-screen every day before attending school. School boards should provide parents with a checklist to perform daily screening of their children before arriving at school and self-assessment tools should be made available to staff to ensure awareness of possible symptoms of COVID-19.
  • Hand hygiene and respiratory etiquette: Schools are expected to train students on appropriate hand hygiene and respiratory etiquette.
  • Distancing and congregating: As much distancing as possible between students, between students and staff, and between staff members will be promoted through cohort type mechanisms.
  • Recess and breaks outdoors: Students don’t need to stay within their class cohort during recess and breaks outdoors, but distancing will be encouraged between cohorts as much as possible.
  • Cleaning: Enhanced cleaning and disinfection standards and protocols will take place
  • Ventilation: School boards are expected to continue optimizing air quality in classrooms by improving ventilation/filtration.

To improve air ventilation at schools, the province announced on Wednesday that they will provide an additional $25 million in funding to ensure that all occupied classrooms/ instructional spaces, gyms, and libraries without mechanical ventilation have standalone HEPA filter units in place.

In total over 70,000 ventilation devices will help ensure schools “remain as safe as possible”, Lecce said.

Click here for more COVID-19 Ontario updates.

Article exclusive to TRNTO