Medical officer orders all Toronto schools closed for in-person learning

The day after Toronto Public Health told school boards it “will not be closing Toronto schools at this time” — it’s closing all schools.

The city’s medical health officer, Dr. Eileen de Villa, has ordered all elementary and secondary school students to transition to remote learning effective tonight at 12:01 a.m., according to a city news release this afternoon.

The order is to be in place until April 18, which brings students to the end of their scheduled April break.

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Even after that, the school closures may be extended, based on COVID-19 data for Toronto.

“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,” the news release says. “Stronger public health measures are required to reverse the surge of infection that the province currently faces.”

The announcement follows the closure of 20 schools in Toronto as of this morning, when TPH was still saying it was dismissing only individual schools based on COVID investigations.

In an open letter to parents today, the Toronto District School Board confirmed students and staff will move to remote learning for the rest of this week “and the April Break scheduled for next week will continue as normal.”


Burdens on parents

TPH says it appreciates the city-wide shutdown places additional burdens on “students, staff and families, and especially those with younger children and fewer supports.”

But, in case parents think they can relieve themselves of this burden by sending their kids to day care instead, TPH has eliminated that option.

“Licensed child care programs will not be permitted to offer care to children whose schools are required to be closed under the order, with the exception of emergency child care for those who qualify,” according to the release.

The school board is supporting this measure.

“School-aged children will not be permitted to attend daycares located inside TDSB schools during the closure, however, pre-school-aged children will continue to be permitted to attend,” its letter says.

Dr. de Villa has cited Section 22 of Ontario’s Health Protection and Promotion Act as grounds for the shutdown order.

That section of the act states a medical officer of health “may require a person to take or to refrain from taking any action that is specified in the order in respect of a communicable disease” — where she determines the disease presents a risk to people’s health and the order is necessary to decrease or eliminate the risk to health.


600,000 vaccinations

In earlier — and more positive — news today, the city announced it had passed an unprecedented milestone today.

It became the first health region in Ontario to have administered more than 600,000 COVID-19 vaccines.

Working with its healthcare partners, pharmacies and Toronto Public Health, it has overseen the delivery of  612,284 vaccine doses to date.