16 Ontario schools now closed due to COVID-19 outbreak. Virus cases seen to rise in coming weeks, months

By Jay Ann Ramirez

TORONTO – Sixteen schools are now ordered closed following the rise in COVID-19 cases and Ontario’s top medical officer is seeing an increase in cases in the coming weeks and months.

Dr. Kieran Moore, Ontario’s chief medical officer of health, confirmed in a conference Thursday that 16 schools have been closed and ordered to continue holding classes virtually.

Data from Ontario’s Ministry of Education showed that of the total 4,844 schools in the province, 16 are now closed, while 694 schools have confirmed virus cases.

Screenshot from the Ontario’s Ministry of Education’s website, showing the number of schools with reported cases and schools closed.

Click here for the list of schools and school boards with reported COVID-19 cases in the past 14 days. The data does not include regional closures in a local public health unit area.

The most recent school to close is the Blessed Sacrament Catholic Elementary School in Kitchener. The closure will last for 10 days.

Moore said that the increase in virus cases appears to be a result of the lack of vaccine availability for kids aged five to 11 years old.

“This is a nasty, aggressive virus. This is the time of year where we expect an increase and sadly, yes, we’ll see increased cases in school settings, especially the elementary where they haven’t had the benefit of the vaccine. The silver lining, though, is that we now have the vaccine,” he said.

“We have unfortunately seen case counts and hospitalizations increase in this age group, so having the vaccine available will provide our children with a strong level of protection against COVID-19 and the highly contagious Delta variant. It will help keep our schools safe and open and stop the spread of the virus,” he added.

Health Canada recently approved the use of the Pfizer vaccine for kids aged five to 11. This is on top of the previously approved Pfizer vaccine for those 12 and older.

Click here for more information on the vaccination for children and youth.

Moore is encouraging parents to have their children vaccinated to make schools safer.

“So, for parents, I think one of the key motivators to get your child vaccinated is the decrease in risk amongst at the school setting, the social setting, or in the home setting of transmission because the vaccine is very powerful at preventing infection around 90.7 percent protection against symptomatic COVID-19 in the randomized control trials,” he said.

Children and youth can get their vaccines in many ways, including accessing the COVID-19 vaccination portal, calling the Provincial Vaccine Contact Centre at 1-833-943-3900, visiting public health units or Indigenous-led vaccination clinics, and participating pharmacies.

Aside from encouraging parents to have their kids vaccinated, he said they are also working on strategies for schools that are situated in communities with high transmission.

Moore said the province has other strategies to control the spread of the virus: keeping lunchrooms in classrooms only, increasing screening and testing capacity, and encouraging virtual assemblies in the future.

“We are working in partnership with all of the health units that have increased activity now to advise how to continue to make the schools safe. The vaccines, absolutely, will make them even safer as a higher proportion of children get immunized. So, in the New Year, after the second dose, we really do anticipate seeing a decrease in the number of children affected,” Moore said.

He also reiterated the Ministry of Education’s goal to keep schools open and maintain in-person learning throughout the province.

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