TORONTO – The province’s stay-at-home order has ended, but elementary and secondary school students will be doing exactly that after Premier Doug Ford announced schools will remain closed until at least September.
Ford was flanked by the province’s health and education ministers, Christine Elliott and Stephen Lecce, respectively, during the June 2 announcement.
“Today, I have to announce that schools will not be returning for in-class learning until the fall,” Ford said, citing modelling data showing a premature return to classrooms would lead to “thousands” of new cases.
In-person learning continues for special education students until the end of June.
The province’s rationale is that allowing children to sit in close proximity to each other indoors for hours a day would lead to the spread of the virus, impacting the province’s falling daily case rate, which has been below 1,000 since May 31.
The province’s Science Advisory Table presented modelling data on May 20 that predicted an increase of six to 11 per cent in daily cases should in-class learning resume before September.
“The fact is, we’re fighting a third wave, driven by variants,” Ford said.
“And unlike the original strains, we know that some of the variants we’re fighting right now are more dangerous for children; it can make younger people very, very sick.”
Addressing kids specifically, Ford said in part, “I know this has been very, very hard on each and every one of you … you’re sick and tired of all this — I get it.
“I can’t imagine what it’s been like for you.”
The premier then announced schools would be permitted to host in-person, outdoor graduation ceremonies for students of all grade levels in June.
“We can do this safely by sticking to our reopening plan; a plan that was developed by Minister Elliott, and the medical community,” Ford said.
In the meantime, the province’s focus is on a push to see educators and students vaccinated before a return to classrooms, along with increasing youth mental health supports with an influx of $31 million announced June 1 to improve access to supports.
The province stated in a press release it expects all youth aged 12 and older, along with educators could be fully vaccinated, should they want, by the end of the summer.
Stay-at-home order ends
After winding down during the last week of May, the province’s stay-at-home order also expired on June 2 after having been introduced in April.
Ontarians are now permitted to leave home for reasons beyond exercising, grocery shopping, accessing a pharmacy or medical care.
Emergency orders under the Emergency Management and Civil Protection Act, however, remain in place until June 16 and residential evictions can also resume with the expiry of Ontario Regulation 266/21.
With the order’s expiry, pandemic-fatigued Ontarians are getting closer to entering step one of the province’s three-step reopening plan announced in May — requiring 60 per cent of the adult population to be at least partially vaccinated before further outdoor activities can resume with gathering limits of up to 10 people, outdoor dining with four people to a table and non-essential retail reopening with 15 per cent capacity.
The province predicted entering step one around June 14, but Ford hinted the move could come earlier.
“Right now, we’re waiting for Dr. Williams and his team to tell us when we may be ready to do so,” Ford said.
For a comprehensive list of what is permitted as of June 2, before step one of the province’s reopening plan, visit: www.ontario.ca/page/reopening-ontario.