Toronto’s medical officer of health is invoking powers under Ontario law to order all local schools closed for in-person instruction due to rising COVID-19 cases.
Dr. Eileen de Villa, who oversees the public health department in Toronto, issued a Section 22 order under the Health Protection and Promotion Act to order schools closed as of Wednesday.
“Given the evidence, Toronto Public Health (TPH) appreciates the value of in-person learning and firmly believes that schools should be the first places in our community to open, and the last to close,” a news release issued by the department Tuesday afternoon said.
“Unfortunately, current circumstances require that difficult decisions must be taken locally to protect all those in our school communities, including students, teachers and staff.
“The spread of COVID-19 has never been greater in Toronto with variants of concern increasing both the risk of transmission and the risk of serious illness or death. Stronger public health measures are required to reverse the surge of infection that the province currently faces.”
Schools in Toronto will move to online learning until at least April 18. However, April break was pre-scheduled for the week of April 12 and schools were not scheduled to be in session.
Section 22 orders allow medical officers of health to put in place requirements aimed at slowing the spread of communicable diseases.
The move came a day after Dr. Lawrence Loh, Peel Region’s medical officer of health, ordered schools to close until April 18.
On Tuesday, de Villa and Toronto Public Health opted not to enact similar measures.
“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 Ontario government reported more than 3,000 new COVID-19 cases on Tuesday, which is in line with the elevated case numbers seen in recent days as the province grapples with a third wave of the virus.