Published: Wed, February 17, 2021
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Ontario lifts stay-at-home order in 27 regions as economic reopening continues

Twenty-seven regions have returned today to the colour-coded pandemic restrictions system that was used prior to a province-wide lockdown that began on Boxing Day.

Tuesday also marks the resumption of in-person learning at schools in Toronto and the surrounding areas. The three regions are the last in Ontario to have students return to physical classrooms - the provincial government allowed other regions to reopen shuttered schools in phases over the last few weeks.

As of February 16, in publicly funded schools in Ontario, there are 22 new school-related student cases (for a total of 5,285) one new school-related staff cases (for a total of 1,125), and no new cases in an "individual not identified" (for a total of 1,125); 110 schools have a reported case, and four school are now closed.

The province logged 910 new COVID-19 infections on Sunday along with 15 new virus-related deaths.

Christine Elliott says the province knows which age groups it wants to prioritize as it distributes its vaccines, but it does not yet have a reliable supply chain. "But it does require ... the partnership of all of us because given that historically higher rate of positivity amongst high school kids, it's going to require a real collective commitment to not congregate".

The province is also expanding asymptomatic COVID-19 testing at schools.

Canada's chief public health officer says that while there has been recent progress on bringing down the number of new COVID-19 cases, loosening restrictions must be done with caution and that provinces must be ready to reapply them quickly if things start to get worse, especially with the new variants. Their deployment falls to local public health units, and an exact figure on tests deployed to date wasn't yet available on Tuesday.

"From February 3 to now, I think they've tested over 14,000 positive specimens and 7% of them are variants of concern".

During a Tuesday morning interview on CTV's Your Morning, Ontario Premier Doug Ford responded to requests for the reinstatement of paid sick leave by referring to it as a "waste of taxpayers money". The requirement took effect in those three regions on Tuesday.

On Wednesday at Queen's Park, Ford said when the COVID-19 hot spots reopen it will be done "very cautiously".

The board is also assisting with the asymptomatic testing pilot run by Toronto Public Health by sending out forms and information to guardians at eligible schools.

"It certainly is not normal", Bird said of the return to classes during the pandemic.

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