Ontario reports nearly 180 new school-related cases of COVID-19 as number of active infections reaches new high

There are now more than double the number of active cases of COVID-19 associated with Ontario public schools than there were just one month ago, as the fourth wave of the pandemic continues to worsen.

The Ministry of Education says that there were another 178 new cases of COVID-19 confirmed over a 24-hour period ending Friday afternoon, pushing the total number of active infections up to 1,879.

That is up 18 per cent week-over-week and is more than double the number of active infections that were associated with schools at this time last month – 913.

The good news is that there has been a recent decrease in the number of schools that have been switched to in-person learning, from a high of 17 back on Nov. 26 to just seven as of this morning.

But COVID-19 outbreaks in the school setting continue to accelerate, in lockstep with the rise in cases.

According to the latest data there are now 230 schools with active outbreaks, accounting for nearly five per cent of all public schools.

That is the highest number of simultaneous outbreaks in schools since the height of the third wave of the pandemic in April.

Back then the number of schools with outbreaks peaked at 264 on April 14, just days ahead of schools being switched to remote-learning only for the second year in a row.

This year public health officials have insisted that they will prioritize keeping schools open, especially in light of Pfizer’s pediatric vaccine being approved for use in children aged five to 11.

This week Toronto Public Health alone will be operating 49 school-based clinics as it seeks to maximize the number of school-aged children that are able to get their first dose prior to the holiday break.

There are also more than 41,000 other children that have been booked to receive their first dose at one of Toronto’s five mass immunization clinics this week, accounting for about 57 per cent of all available appointments.

“We are focused on helping families vaccinate kids as quickly as possible to help protect them from COVID-19. We know that parents will rely heavily on clinics that are close to them, including clinics at the schools their children attend,” Mayor John Tory said in a press release detailing the city’s efforts on Monday morning. “Our plan to increase the availability of these clinics ensures that we are making it as easy as possible for kids and families to get vaccinated. I want to thank all of our city’s school boards for working with us to make this possible and to the pharmacies and doctors’ offices who are also helping kids get vaccinated.”

Of the more than 1,800 active cases associated with Ontario public schools about half – 937 – have been reported by boards in the Greater Toronto and Hamilton Area.

During the 2020-2021 school year it took until March to surpass 1,879 active cases in the public school system.

The cumulative number of school-related cases is also trending ahead of where it was last year. As of this morning there have been 8,280 total cases linked to schools compared to 5,420 at this time last year.

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