Ontario’s gradually rising COVID-19 caseload concerns Education Minister Stephen Lecce as students in much of the GTA return to school for the first time in six months on Tuesday.
As students in Peel, Halton, Durham and a lot of York Region come back to face to face or online class guidance on Tuesday, Education Minister Stephen Lecce said he fears the ascent in daily infections across Ontario, which have remained over 100 throughout the previous 11 days, could impact the continued operation of schools.
“In the context of flu season and a possible second wave, we cannot lose focus,” he said.
Case growth has been highest in Toronto and Peel Region, now and again representing half of the province’s new infections consistently.
On Tuesday, provincial officials revealed that labs confirmed 375 new COVID-19 infections over the past 48 hours, including 190 on Sunday and 185 on Monday, the highest count of cases since July 24.
University Health Network Epidemiologist Dr. Issac Bogoch said there is no way to keep infection growth in the community from impacting schools.
Lecce said that public health officials have not provided any sort of a maximum number of cases required before they recommend that schools be shut down once more, saying instead there are a number of indicators they would look to.
“There are a few variables public health officials and the (Chief Medical Officer of Health) would consider in that respect,” Lecce said.
Ontario’s roughly $371 million plan calls for high school students to attend truncated classes on alternating days, with masks mandatory for all students down to grade 4.
It also embeds public health nurses in the school system and provides all students with the option to learn from home.
Lecce and Premier Doug Ford were forced to expand funding for the plan and allow school boards to spend up to $500 million contained in their reserve funds amid continuing criticism that the plan does not provide for adequate physical distancing in elementary school classrooms.
The federal government later announced $381 million in additional funding to help.
Lecce acknowledged that some school boards, including the Toronto District School Board, are targeting their “package” of efforts at schools in areas previously connected to high rates of infection.
He stressed that community transmission of the virus, left unchecked, could defeat every plan put in place and force his government to close schools once again.
“What will happen in our schools is reflective to what will happen in our communities.”
Photo credit: THE CANADIAN PRESS/Carlos Osorio
News source: CP24