With the daily number of new COVID-19 cases on the rise both locally and across the province, Waterloo Region’s top doctor has warned parents that schools may be forced to stop in-person learning after the April break.
“Parents and schools should prepare for the possibility that there may be the need to switch to online learning following the April break,” medical officer of health Dr. Hsiu-Li Wang said in a statement.
The top doctors in Toronto, Peel and Guelph issued the order this week ahead of the break.
Ontario has seen its daily case nearly triple in less than a month after just 1,092 cases were reported on March 11 while the province announced 3,215 cases on Wednesday.
“We continue to monitor our local situation closely, however communities across Ontario have begun to see case rates escalate quickly,” Wang said.
“Our case rates have also started to increase in the last couple of days and we are at risk for the rapid acceleration seen in other communities.”
On Wednesday, Waterloo Public Health reported 63 new positive tests, 24 hours after it announced 82 new cases. Both numbers sit above any that have been reported in a 24-hour period since February.
While case counts are on the rise in the area even among students, there are only five active COVID-19 outbreaks across the region with three of those occurring at one school.
That school, Holy Rosary Catholic Elementary School in Waterloo, closed its doors on Monday until after the break as it did not have enough staff to keep functioning.
Wang says a decision has not been made on whether schools will be open later in the month.
“This would never be a decision made lightly,” she said.
“In communities with very high and accelerating rates of community spread, more children and adults will acquire COVID-19, and this will lead to impacts for schools.”
She also noted the importance of in-class learning on student’s mental health and wellbeing.
“For children’s health and learning needs, schools should be the last to close and the first to open,” Wand said.
Parents in Toronto and Guelph were given short notice of schools closing, causing parents to scramble as they are forced to teach, work and parent in many situations.
“We will work closely with our school board partners to keep families and staff informed of decisions with as much notice as possible,” Wang said.