Simcoe Muskoka schools won't close for in-person learning amid stay-at-home order

WATCH: Ontario Education Minister Stephen Lecce announced on Wednesday that the province is expanding asymptomatic testing to pharmacies and assessment centres and encouraged students and teachers to take part before going back to school. He also said active screening for the coronavirus will be mandated in all schools after the April break, expanding from just high schools.

Schools under the Simcoe Muskoka District Health Unit will not close for in-person learning amid a province-wide stay-at-home order that will go into effect on Thursday, the local medical officer of health confirmed Wednesday.

“I am monitoring the situation very closely,” Dr. Charles Gardner, the local health unit’s medical officer of health, said at a tele-press conference.

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“School is really very important for the emotional and physical well-being of children and for support for their families as well, to enable essential workers to be able to go to work.”

Gardner said there is a “very limited” amount of COVID-19 transmission in schools, which speaks to the “effectiveness” of current control measures, like screening, masking and cohorting.

“We’re not in the same position as Peel or Toronto,” he added.

“Our case count, though it’s gone up quite substantially is still significantly less than the provincial rate and much less than the rate in Peel, Toronto, York and other areas in the GTA. Therefore, we’re not in the situation where there is such a high impact on the operations of schools that they would have to discontinue.”

Gardner noted the situation could change and that he’s monitoring it closely.

Since Feb, 8, when schools reopened, the health unit has seen a cumulative total of 271 individuals who had been in a school environment with COVID-19, Gardner said.

“That’s not the same thing as transmission in the school environment,” he added.

“The great majority of these cases actually acquired their infection out of school and in the community or in their household. Nevertheless, that resulted in exposure to others.”

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Currently, schools in Toronto and Peel are closed in an effort to curb the spread of COVID-19 amid a third wave of the pandemic.

On Wednesday, the Simcoe Muskoka health unit reported outbreaks at six educational settings.

© 2021 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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