Premier Doug Ford, alongside Health Minister Christine Elliott, Education Minister Stephen Lecce, and other provincial parliamentarians, addressed media on Thursday from a classroom in Whitby, Ontario, providing updates to Ontario's response to the coronavirus pandemic, as well as providing updates on the province's plan to reopen schools.
Ontario schools were shuttered on March 14, 2020 as cases in Canada began to balloon. In June, the province laid out three possible scenarios for the return to in-class instruction.
That three-pronged approach laid out the following.
- A plan for regular in-class instruction with heightened health protocols.
- The continuation of remote learning with more standardization. This would happen should school closures be extended, or if some parents choose not to send their child back to school, the province says.
- An adapted delivery model, which blends in-class with online learning, which would see students alternating being in class by days or weeks.
Plan made by experts
Ford announced that this coming September, all publicly funded elementary schools would be reopening, following "a plan developed by the best health care experts."
Masks will be mandatory for staff, and cloth masks for students from grades 4 to 12, with exceptions for those with medical conditions.
"Cohorting of students to limit contact with other students and staff, expanding testing in our schools, frequent cleaning of the school buses, additional health and safety training for teachers,"
Over $309 million will be invested immediately to hire 500 new local health nurses for schools, with an additional 900 custodians to be hired, as well as protective equipment to keep students safe.
Ford also said that schools will be provided guidance and protocol for potential outbreaks.
The childcare sector will also be reopened on September 1.
Lecce announced that "most" secondary schools will open under an adapted model that will limit the size and interaction of students.
"As we've previously laid out, groups of 15 students will alternate between attending class in person and online," said Lecce.
Secondary schools with lower risk profiles will be able to reopen with a full return to class, in person, five days a week.
New cases continue to fall
Only 89 new cases of coronavirus were reported in Ontario on Thursday along with three new deaths. The numbers are higher than Wednesday's though it is still one of the lowest counts in recent months, according to CP24.
On Wednesday, 76 new cases were reported and 111 were reported on Tuesday. The case count on Wednesday was Ontario’s lowest since March 22.
Officials reported that on Thursday, 165 people recovered from the virus. Ontario now has 1,397 active cases, 2,772 deaths and 34,906 recoveries.
Approximately 27,600 tests were completed by provincial labs in the past 24 hours and there are still currently 28,000 tests under investigation.
"Locally, 28 of the province’s 34 public health units are reporting five or fewer cases, with 17 of them reporting no new cases," said Christine Elliott, the Ontario Health Minister, on Twitter.
Roughly 63 percent of new cases reported on Thursday were found in people under 40-years-old.
There were 15 new cases reported in Ottawa, 12 in Peel Region, 10 in Toronto, and 7 in York Region. There were also 15 cases reported in Windsor-Essex—the only region remaining in Stage 2 of reopening.
Ontario is currently treating 84 coronavirus patients, down 7 from Wednesday. Of those patients, 27 are in intensive care and 16 are using a ventilator to help them breathe.