Today, Dr. Kieran Moore, Chief Medical Officer of Health, issued the following statement on the province’s return to in-person learning for the 2021/22 school year:
“It has now been two weeks since most educators, staff and students across the province returned to the classroom to resume in-person learning for this academic year.
We have made incredible strides as a province to get to this point, where our children and youth are back where they belong, learning and socializing in the classroom with their friends and participating in extracurricular activities. These are all crucially important for the mental, physical and social well-being of our children.
As we see during the influenza season every year, transmissible respiratory viruses do impact our schools, and COVID-19 is no exception. Over the first few weeks of the school year, there have been 1,046 confirmed cases of COVID-19 among students and staff who attend school in-person. With over 2 million students, over 300,000 education workers and school partners and 4,844 publicly funded elementary and secondary schools in the province, this is not cause for alarm and in-person learning continues to remain safe. We are monitoring closely and as expected, most cases are contracted in the community and not in the schools themselves. When cases do occur, in-school transmission is minimal with the majority of outbreaks contained at 2 to 3cases thanks to the rapid response of our school boards and public health units.
We prepared for this, and have taken the precautions and actions necessary to ensure schools remain open for the entire year, with minimal disruptions for staff, students and families. Students, teachers and staff are screening for symptoms every day; face-coverings are worn in indoor settings; hand hygiene, respiratory etiquette and enhanced cleaning practices are frequently reinforced; improvements to ventilationhave been made; and physical distancing and cohorting is occurring as much as possible. There is not one specific measure that will prevent transmission from occurring in schools, which is why we have put multiple layers of protections in place. I want to thank our children, staff, bus drivers, teachers, parents, and everyone involved for following these measures allowing for a safer school environment.
It is not only our younger kids returning to the classroom. Ontario’s post-secondary education institutions have been working hard to ensure that their campuses are as safe as possible, and I want to applaud their incredible efforts as well.
However, the key to keeping our schools open and as safe as possible is to achieve the highest immunization rates we can and to increase our level of community immunity and protect those who cannot receive the vaccine. I urge everyone to please come forward, get vaccinated or get your child vaccinated if you have not done so already. It is not too late. For those still feeling hesitant, I encourage you to discuss any concerns with your pharmacist, doctor or other trusted health care provider.
We have made great progress vaccinating youth aged 12 to 17, with over 79 per cent having received a first dose of a vaccine and over 68 per cent receiving a second dose, as of September 20. There are also over 640 vaccination clinics in or near publicly funded elementary, secondary and post-secondary schools, working to support increased uptake and provide accessible and convenient access to vaccines for eligible students and their families, as well as educators and school staff.
I will continue to review data and provide advice to the government on the measures that are needed to protect the health and safety of Ontarians and keep our kids in the classroom.
After two school years already disrupted, we owe this to our children, youth and families.”