The following is a press release from the Ontario government:
In response to the highly-transmissible Omicron variant, Ontario is putting in place additional health and safety measures to create more layers of protection to keep schools as safe as possible for in-person learning, which is critical to the positive mental health and academic success of students.
The Children’s Health Coalition – representing Ontario’s children’s hospitals, mental health agencies and rehabilitation centres – has emphasized that in-person education is critical to the mental health, development and well-being of children and youth. Students are set to return to schools on January 5, 2022 for school boards previously scheduled to return on January 3 to provide schools additional time to prepare for the public health measures announced today. The following additional measures will help ensure safer schools and protect in-person learning:
- Updating the COVID-19 school and child care screener ahead of the return to school on January 5 and asking students, parents and staff for rigorous screening and monitoring of symptoms.
- Providing non-fit-tested N95 masks for staff in schools and licensed child care settings as an optional alternative to medical/surgical masks, and additional supply of high-quality three-ply cloth masks that are strongly encouraged and free for students and children in January.
- Deploying an additional 3,000 standalone HEPA filter units to school boards, building on the existing 70,000 HEPA filter units and ventilation devices already in schools.
- Continuing PCR testing eligibility for symptomatic elementary and secondary students, education staff and participating private and First Nation operated schools who have received a PCR self-collection kit through their school.
- Starting in January, temporarily permitting only low-contact indoor sports and safe extra-curricular activities.
- Updating COVID-19 reporting requirements for school boards and child care in January.
- Supporting the projected hiring of over 2,000 staff, funded by a $304 million allocation for second semester that includes additional teachers, custodians, and mental health workers.
“Students are returning to safer schools – with enhanced ventilation, high-quality masks, and one of the highest vaccine rates in Canada,” said Ontario minister of education Stephen Lecce. “We have followed the clear advice of the Chief Medical Officer of Health and pediatric hospitals by ensuring students safely return to learning in-class, alongside their friends and teachers. We are taking nothing for granted, which is why we are making available better quality masks, additional air ventilation units, and over $300 million to hire more teachers, custodians, and mental health workers, to ensure Ontario students remain as safe as possible.”
Further Reducing the Spread of COVID-19 in Larger Indoor Settings
To further strengthen its response to Omicron and reduce opportunities for close contact as the province gets as many vaccines into arms as possible, effective 12:01 a.m. on Friday, December 31, 2021, Ontario is restricting spectator capacity to 50 per cent of the usual seating capacity or 1,000 people, whichever is less, in the indoor areas of the following settings:
- Spectator areas of facilities used for sports and recreational fitness activities (e.g., sporting events);
- Concert venues; and
The government and the Chief Medical Officer of Health will continue to monitor the data to determine when it is safe to lift capacity limits in these settings.