The medical officer of health for Peel Region is invoking powers under Ontario law to order all local schools closed for in-person instruction due to COVID-19.
Dr. Lawrence Loh, who oversees the public health department in Peel Region, issued a Section 22 order under the Health Protection and Promotion Act on Monday to order schools closed as of Tuesday. April Break spring camps were also cancelled.
Schools in Peel will move to online learning until at least April 18.
“Late last week and through the weekend, Peel saw significant increases in case counts and the spread of variants in the community,” a statement issued by Region of Peel on Monday said.
“This closure will allow students and staff at least two weeks out of schools to break any chains of transmission and protect them from exposure.”
The statement said even though schools have strong measure “to prevent transmission in their settings,” the move was aimed at keeping variants out of the facilities.
The schools were closed on Monday due to the Easter long weekend and the April break was pre-scheduled for the week of April 12.
Section 22 orders allow medical officers of health to put in place requirements aimed at slowing the spread of communicable diseases.
As of Monday afternoon, Toronto’s medical officer of health opted against issuing a similar order.
“This decision will be revisited on a daily basis, and further recommendations may be made in the near future in partnership with our local school boards and the province.”
The news comes as the Ontario government reported nearly 3,000 new COVID-19 cases on Sunday and Monday, keeping with elevated case numbers seen in recent days as the province grapples with a third wave of the virus.
A spokesperson for Ontario Education Minister Stephen Lecce said the province’s chief medical officer of health confirmed schools “remain safe with strong public health measure” and that nearly all schools are open, touting infection prevention measures and the need to remain “vigilent.”
“The Peel medical officer of health has stated that schools are safe and are not the source of transmission, however, they can be put at risk by a high-level of community spread,” Caitlin Clark said in a statement Monday afternoon.
“It is our firm belief that schools should be open for in-class learning as they are critical to student mental health.”