Elementary school students continue online learning until Jan. 23

Ontario's Chief Medical Officer of Health, Dr. David Williams, announces elementary students will continue learning online until Jan. 23.

Ontario’s Chief Medical Officer of Health says elementary students will continue learning online until Jan. 23.

Dr. David Williams says elementary school students in southern Ontario will be learning online an extra two weeks as the amount of COVID-19 being transmitted in the community continues to rise. Schools in Northern Ontario will be able to open.

Williams noted there were 3,519 cases of COVID-19 and 89 deaths Thursday – the highest numbers yet during the pandemic. “We were hoping by now would see the numbers going down, unfortunately it is going the other way.”

Williams says when schools opened in September there were 200 to 300 cases a day, 1,700 to 1,800 as they closed for the Christmas break.

“We were hoping the numbers were going to come down – they didn’t come down…I’m concerned we may jump to 4,000 cases per day,” he says.

Williams says the province has to look at increasing “surveillance” for the virus in the schools before students return.

“We have to look at what are the further steps to put walls around our schools to protect and monitor that…it’s not something you can turn a switch on,” says Williams.

The doctors admit the extension will cause more headaches in some homes – particularly with the short notice. But Dr. Dirk Huyer, co-ordinator the provincial response to coronavirus outbreaks, says the uncertainty can’t be helped.

“COVID doesn’t allow us certainty…we make plans and we hope they can go ahead. Certainty is very difficult with COVID,” he says.

“This is obviously frustrating for everybody…but clearly the numbers keep going up despite the provincial lockdown.”