Ontario is ready to impose further restrictions

Premier Doug Ford put together with his ministers for a rare Sunday ministerial meeting to debate whether to introduce new restrictions – and possibly. further delayed school start – due to cloud-rocking COVID-19 cases driven by the highly contagious Omicron variant, sources told Star.

With 16,714 new cases reported Sunday – a number that remained high despite new limits for PCR laboratory tests – the province also saw an increase of 10 patients with COVID on intensive, to a total of 224.

Although schools are set to reopen on Wednesday, the province has been urged by some to introduce new measures to help keep children in class, while others have raised concerns that students will return immediately.

A source told Star late Sunday that it is now considering postponing the date of the reopening of the school.

The opportunity will certainly create great confusion for the parents, as the head of health Dr. Kieran Moore only announced the January 5 back-to-school date only last week.

Both Moore and Education Secretary Stephen Lecce, along with a host of pediatric experts, have repeatedly said that schools should be the first to open and the last to close during the pandemic.

Education sources have told Star that Ford wanted to keep childcare centers closed and children in kindergarten and class 1 homes for two weeks to mitigate any increase in cases after the holidays. (Children under five are not eligible to be vaccinated.) But Moore and the county’s scientific table of advisers resisted the move, sources said, and it was dropped.

Some of the measures now available to the provincial government include further limiting social gatherings, several restrictions on the capacity of all retail stores and personal care services and also setting maximum numbers for all religious services. Given an expected increase in hospital admissions, the province may also suspend non-urgent operations and procedures, even though there is already a huge backlog for MRI and CT scans.

Amid speculation about capacity limits and that restaurants and bars may be closed for indoor dining, Dan Kelly of the Canadian Federation of Independent Business took to social media to say that “thousands of small businesses will not survive another round of lockdowns. Unlike March 2020, many are incredibly weakened after 2 years of painful restrictions. The average small business has taken on $ 170,000 in COVID-related debt. We can do not keep doing. “

New Ontario data released last week showed that the risk of hospitalization or death from Omicron is 54 percent lower than Delta. Hospitals have also been asked to now distinguish between patients admitted for COVID and those admitted for other reasons and then randomly test positive for COVID, to help ensure more accurate statistics.

Moore announced last week that schools would open Wednesday, N95 masks would be given to teachers and 3,000 additional HEPA air filter units would be distributed to schools. Some high-contact leisure activities also need to be put on hold.

The Ministry of Education has also asked boards as best they can to respond to any new requests for children to go to online learning.

On Sunday, Ottawa Health Officer Dr. Vera Etches en open letter said that there were “many questions and concerns about returning to school planned for many next week”, but that she supports the move because “children and young people have fallen behind in social and educational development. They have several mental challenges – depression, anxiety, eating disorders, hospitalizations included ”and because parents are also stressed.

Although “the level of the COVID-19 Omicron variant in our society is very high … the information we have from the whole pandemic is that schools that are open are not a key reason to make the pandemic worse. In Ottawa, in “December, with the Omicron variant in circulation, the data showed that COVID-19 rates were growing in society much faster than in the school population. Many of the introductions of COVID-19 in schools were related to the transfer from social and sporting activities outside school.”

Etches said she “discusses with the province the urgent need to pause other activities to keep schools a priority.”

Dr. Peter Jüni, the scientific director of the province’s COVID-19 science table, has previously told Star that schools could actually be safer places for children if they are supervised, cohorted and masked all day long while mingling with other children at home. for childcare and not wearing masks.

He also said the province should not close schools for personal learning before other restrictions are implemented.

Toronto District School Board Trustee Shelley Laskin sent out a newsletter to parents Sunday night, saying board staff worked all weekend and that based on the most up-to-date information, schools would reopen Wednesday, but child care and pre- and post-school. the programs resume as scheduled on Monday.

The board said it planned to have N95 masks for teachers by Wednesday, and “we were one of the first school boards to take ventilation seriously, and TDSB currently has more than 16,000 HEPA filters in all occupied learning spaces, and additional units will be used to provide even greater coverage. “

The province also provides “children-size high-quality 3-layer fabric masks will continue to be provided free of charge to all students who need them,” she wrote.

The Toronto Board has also mandated vaccines for all staff, and like all boards, they are pushing for COVID vaccines to be added to the list of required shots for students.

The board is holding an extraordinary meeting on Tuesday to answer questions about school reopening.

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