school reopening covid

Premier Ford issues letter seeking opinions on reopening Ontario schools

Ontario health officials reported 1,135 cases of COVID-19 on Thursday, a slight increase from the 1,095 new cases reported on Wednesday and 1,039 new cases reported on Tuesday. Officials also reported 19 deaths on Thursday (a decrease from the 23 deaths reported Wednesday), with a total of 8,697 deaths reported in the province to date.

Out of the new cases reported Thursday, 316 were reported in Toronto, 271 in Peel and 75 in York Region.

The province also processed more than 37,700 tests in the past 24 hours, with the daily positivity rate in Ontario now sitting at 3.6% (down from 5.3% reported on Wednesday).

COVID-19 variants of concern (VOC) cases are still on the rise, with the province reporting 1,270 lab-confirmed VOCs, with over 1,200 being the B.1.1.7 variant (first detected in England).

As of Thursday morning, 8,530,698 doses of approved COVID-19 vaccines have been administered in Ontario out of a total of 10,036,905 doses delivered (meaning 85% of doses delivered to the province have been administered). Approximately 61.36% of people 12+ in Ontario have received at least one dose of a COVID vaccine.

In Toronto, 2,010,103 vaccine doses have been administered as of Thursday, and 594,854 have been fully vaccinated in the city.

Ontario’s three-step roadmap to safely reopen the province will see restrictions eased throughout the summer months based on the province-wide vaccination rate and improvements in key public health and health care indicators.  Step 1 is estimated to begin around June 14. This step will remain in place for at least 21 days and will permit outdoor activities with limited well-managed crowding and restricted retail.

However, reports suggest that the government is keeping an eye on COVID indicators to determine if an earlier date to re-open the economy could be considered.

Meanwhile, parents/educators are still waiting for news from the province on whether students will return to in-class learning before the end of the school year. Reports suggest that Premier Doug Ford, in a letter addressed to 55 different groups/individuals, including medical experts and health organizations, solicited advice about reopening schools before the end of June:

The letter states that new modelling, expected to be released in coming days, will show that, if schools reopen, there could be between 2,000 and 4,000 additional COVID-19 cases by the end of July compared to if they remain closed.

The letter also expresses concerns about the COVID variants (particularly that vaccines might be less effective against the COVID variant first found in India), and the fact that only 41% of teachers/education workers received their first dose of a vaccine.

To help guide any decisions regarding schools, he asked for input/perspectives on the following questions:

  • Is the reopening of schools for in-person learning safe for students?
  • Is the reopening of schools for in-person learning safe for teachers and all education staff?
  • There are a growing number of cases in Ontario of the variant first identified in India (B.1.617). Does this mutation pose an increased risk to students and education workers?
  • The modelling from the Ontario Science Table has suggested that reopening schools will lead to an increase in cases in the province of Ontario, is this acceptable and safe?
  • Other countries are warning mutations including the B.1.617 variant are putting children at much greater risk and are shutting schools down. Is this concern not shared by medical experts in Ontario?
  • Should teachers be fully vaccinated before resuming in class lessons and if not, is one dose sufficient?
  • Under Ontario’s reopening plan, indoor gatherings won’t commence until July. Should indoor school instruction resume before then?

The undated letter, which was reportedly sent on Thursday, May 27, asks respondents to provide their responses no later than 5 p.m. on Friday, May 28. Social media response hasn’t been that positive.

Click here for more COVID-19 Ontario updates.

Article exclusive to TRNTO