Guelph Schools Stop In-person Learning as Local Infection Rate Doubles

It was the news nobody wanted to hear on an Easter Monday, everyone was going back to school on Tuesday to stay home again on Wednesday. On Monday night, the two local school boards and Wellington-Dufferin-Guelph Public Health all announced their intention to cease in-person learning after Tuesday, for two weeks, as the province struggles with a rapid increase in new COVID cases from the third wave.

“I wish this step was not required,” said Medical Officer of Health Dr. Nicola Mercer in a statement. “I know the tremendous burden this places on families in our region. The growing number of cases across the province and the severity of the COVID-19 variants of concern places all of us at risk.”

Both the Upper Grand District School Board and the Wellington Catholic District School Board posted updates to their websites Monday outlining the next steps. Students will have one day of in-person instruction on Tuesday so that teachers will be able to make sure that they have the resources they need for virtual learning the rest of the week.

Public Health’s plan is helped by the fact that next week is the re-scheduled spring break. Students and teachers will have the week off from April 12 to 16, and by that point the hope is that the local COVID-19 infection rate is improved. In-person classes will not begin again until Monday April 19, but all parties admit that this deadline could be pushed back if conditions don’t improve.

Speaking of the conditions, Wellington-Dufferin-Guelph Public Health announced on Tuesday morning that the 7-day moving rate of confirmed cases has more than doubled. Public Health didn’t report any new numbers during the long weekend, but on Thursday the rate of confirmed cases was 42 per 100,000, and as of Tuesday morning it’s now 91 per 100,000. Test positivity has also doubled from 1.9 per cent on Thursday to 3.8 per cent on Tuesday.

By the number of cases, there were 297 new cases from the four-day weekend. On Thursday, there were just 167 active cases of COVID-19 in the region, but now there are 363, and more than two-thirds of those cases were in Guelph alone. On the bright side, the number of fatalities from the virus remains unchanged at 106 as the region enters its third week without a COVID death. This statistic is likely credited to the near complete vaccination of residents in long-term care homes, and although there are presently five outbreaks in area homes, more than two-thirds of the confirmed cases are in staff.

The Wellington-Dufferin-Guelph region is not the only one putting a stop to in-person learning as the third wave crests. Peel Region closed down in-person learning for all classes from kindergarten to grade 12, including special education, starting today.

“We continue to take aggressive steps on COVID-19 vaccinations; that is the only way out of this pandemic,” added Mercer. “Until we reach significant levels of vaccination, we remain at risk. I urge people to continue to follow public health guidelines.”

Public Health will release the former Section 22 order sometime later today.

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