Public health extends online-only learning until at least Feb. 1

WELLINGTON COUNTY – Local students will not be returning to class on Jan. 25, and will have to continue online-only learning until at least Feb. 1.

Dr. Nicola Mercer, Medical Officer of Health for Wellington-Dufferin-Guelph Public Health (WDGPH), announced the one-week extension late in the day on Jan. 20.

“I know everyone wants schools open for in-person learning as soon as it is safe,” said Mercer.

“Teachers and parents are keenly aware of the value our children get from being able to gather together with their teachers and classmates and the pressure that remote learning places on educators and families. I share these sentiments.”

Students with special education needs who cannot be accommodated through remote learning can continue to attend school in person.

Mercer, who thanked education workers and parents for their cooperation, said her instructions will be evaluated on an ongoing basis to determine when schools can be safely re-opened.

“Cases are declining in the region,” said Mercer. “We are doing the difficult work of bringing COVID back down to levels where we can safely reopen schools, but we are simply not there yet.

“I urge everyone in Wellington-Dufferin-Guelph to keep up the work of reducing the spread of the virus.”

As of Jan. 20, WDGPH was reporting 416 active cases in the region, down significantly from a record-high of 489 on Jan. 11.

The region’s latest case rate per 100,000 population is 115.9 and the test positivity rate is 4.2% (on Jan. 11 those figures were 149.2.6 and 5.9% respectively).

WDGPH spokesperson Danny Williamson told the Advertiser “the numbers are trending in the right direction.”

However, he added, “We’re still nowhere close to where we need to be in terms of getting this wave under control.”

Elementary and secondary schools switched to remote-only learning on Jan. 4 as part of a province-wide COVID-19 lockdown that was announced on Dec. 21 and came into effect five days later.

Initially, the move was to last just one week for elementary schools, but it was later extended to Jan. 25 to correspond with secondary schools.

When the province declared a state of emergency and introduced a stay-at-home order on Jan. 12, it announced schools in Windsor-Essex, Peel, Toronto, Hamilton and York regions would not return to in-person instruction until Feb. 10 – and that schools in northern public health units would remain open.

Officials stated they would announce by Jan. 20 which public health units in the rest of the province could resume in-person learning, based on the latest data.

But as of 5pm on Jan. 20, there was no word from provincial officials.

The text of Mercer’s instructions can be viewed on the public health website.