Ontario to offer remote learning next school year, but no details on return to class this spring

Ontario will offer online learning for the next school year, Education Minister Stephen Lecce said Tuesday, though he offered no news about whether or not students might return to in-person learning this spring.

At a news conference Tuesday, reporters asked the minister a variety of questions about the current school year, but Lecce repeatedly deferred to the advice of Medical Officer of Health Dr. David Williams, who was not present.

“When we get updated advice … you will know it,” Lecce said.

The education minister did say the province wants kids to be back in school, and will continue to seek advice from the Williams “on the way forward.”

“We will not take risks with your child,” he said.

The province says the option to use online learning will be available for the entire 2021-2022 school year and it will be providing more information to parents in the coming months.

The government also says it will increase funding to school boards by $561 million next year to help address continued pandemic-related costs.

It says it will spend a total of $25.6 billion on the education system in 2021-2022 — an increase of 2.2 per cent over the previous year.

The province says it will allow boards to access their reserves, as it did last year, to help address pandemic costs.

It will also extend $1.6 billion in COVID-19 supports to boards, including millions to upgrade ventilation, support learning recovery, and allow for flexible staffing.

Case count drops below 3,000

Ontario reported another 2,791 cases of COVID-19 and the deaths of 25 more people with the illness on Tuesday.

The last time the daily case count was below 3,000 in the province was nearly a month ago on April 5. It’s also the fewest new infections reported on a single day since April 1.

Notably, though, Tuesdays frequently see the lowest numbers of new cases relative to other days of the week, likely due to the processing of weekend tests on Mondays. 

Today’s count comes as labs completed just 33,740 tests and Public Health Ontario logged a provincewide positivity rate of 9.1 per cent. Officials said Monday that the seven-day average test positivity rate was 8.3 per cent. 

Last Tuesday there were 3,265 further cases confirmed with about the same number of processed tests and a per cent positivity rate of 10.2.

It could be an indicator that the growth in infections is continuing its recent trend of slowing, but firm conclusions can’t be drawn from any one day of data.It is also possible that the relatively low overall testing figures of recent weeks and high positivity rates mean that infections are going unconfirmed. 

The additional cases reported today include:

  • 931 in Toronto
  • 653 in Peel Region
  • 275 in York Region
  • 147 in Durham Region
  • 128 in Hamilton
  • 112 in Ottawa
  • 101 in Halton Region

The seven-day average fell to 3,509, its lowest point in more than three weeks. The indicator has been steadily falling since its pandemic-high of 4,370 on April 17.

More Pfizer vaccines set to arrive this week

Another 3,323 cases were marked resolved in today’s provincial update. There are about 36,440 confirmed, active infections throughout Ontario.

As of yesterday, there were 2,167 people with COVID-19-related illnesses in hospitals, 886 of whom were being treated in intensive care units, according to the Ministry of Health. Of those, 609 required ventilators to breathe. 

Critical Care Services Ontario, an agency that puts together internal reports for hospitals and health organizations, said that 64 more patients were sent to ICUs yesterday. New daily admissions to critical care have remained high, with patients spending on average 11.4 days in ICUs.

The 25 further COVID-linked deaths push Ontario’s official toll to 8,143. The seven-day average of daily deaths dropped slightly to 25.6, from 26.1

Public health units collectively administered 88,871 doses of COVID-19 vaccines Monday, the province said. Some 378,085 people have gotten both shots of a vaccine.

Ontario has given out 5,467,120, or nearly 97 per cent, of the 5,644,975 doses it has received to date. A shipment of 786,240 more shots of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine is scheduled to arrive this week.

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