Citing ‘wildfire’ spread of COVID-19 variants, Ford closes schools and moves students back to online-only learning

Ontario schools will move back to online-only learning following the April break, staying there until data shows it is safe for students to return to in-class learning, Premier Doug Ford said today.
The move, he said, is driven by new variants of COVID-19, causing the virus to grow like “wildfire” in Ontario, said Ford.
“I can’t stress this enough. We are at critical point right now. Many of the health indicators continue to surpass the worst-case scenario, and as we have shown since the beginning, when it comes to keeping (Ontarians) safe, this government will not hesitate to act,” he said.
“The situation is changing quickly, and we need to respond. Right now, I am extremely concerned about the new variants: the South African variant, the UK variant spreading in India, and the Brazilian variant that is spreading rampantly in BC right now.”
He again called on the federal government to tighten border restrictions to “protect us from the deadly, deadly variants of concern,” and called for decisive community action to get the spread of the virus under control.
“Our best defence right now is staying home, limiting mobility, staying the course when it comes to health and science. But the next few weeks will be critical. Right now we need to do everything possible to get ahead of these variants and, unfortunately, that means looking at our schools,” the premier said.
The problem, he continued, is not in the schools, but rather in the community. It will become a much larger problem for everyone if it spreads into the schools.
“Bringing our kids back to a congregate setting in schools after a week off in the community is a risk that I won’t take because we know that the more COVID spreads in our communities, the more likely it is to get into the schools and that would create massive problems for all of us down the road,” said Ford.
“My friends, no one wants our kids in school more than I do, that’s where they belong. But with COVID spreading like wildfire, with these deadly variants taking hold in Ontario, we simply can’t be too cautious right now. We have to be proactive, and when it comes to keeping our kids safe, I will never take unnecessary risks.”
Data that includes case numbers, hospitalizations, and intensive care unit admissions will guide the government’s decisions on reopening schools, said Ford.
Ontario recorded another 4,401 COVID-19 cases today, slightly lower than the 4,456 reported Sunday, the highest daily increase since the beginning of the pandemic, bringing the province’s total to 391,009 and 7,567 deaths.
The Province also reports that 1,646 people are in hospitals being treated for COVID-19. Of those, 619 are in intensive care units (ICUs), with 408 patients on a ventilator.
The positivity rate jumped to 9.5 percent today. According to the World Health Organization, the positivity rate should be below five percent for at least two weeks for restrictions to be eased/avoided. And on Friday, the average number of confirmed cases in Canada per million people averaged more than the United States, the first time that has happened since the start of the pandemic.