June 2 COVID-19 update: Numbers continue to dip, In-class out for this school year

Special to WC Online

OTTAWA – The first day after the official stay-at-home order ends sees COVID-19 numbers continuing to tend down in the area.

Ottawa Public Health (OPH) is reporting 42 new COVID-19 cases and another new death related to the coronavirus while outbreaks are being cleared at Montfort Hospital and the Queensway Carleton Hospital.

The hospital outbreaks started at the end of April and early May, affecting a total of 20 patients and one staff member between the two hospitals. Five COVID-19-related deaths were associated with the three outbreaks, which have all been cleared as of today (June 2).

There are still 18 Ottawa healthcare institutions and two childcare centres dealing with COVID-19 outbreaks. OPH is also monitoring four community outbreaks linked to workplace incidents.

The latest COVID-19 death reported in Ottawa was a resident in their 70s. The city’s pandemic death toll is up to 572, including: one person in their 20s; one in their 30s; eight in their 40s; 22 in their 50s; 66 in their 60s; 108 in their 70s; 200 in their 80s; and 166 in their 90s.

Local hospitalizations due to COVID-19 are down to 32 with six patients in intensive care. Hospitalization levels related to the virus haven’t been this low in Ottawa since March 21, when 29 people were in hospital and four patients were in ICUs.

OPH says it is tacking 598 active cases of COVID-19 — down from 635 on yesterday (June 1).

Ottawa’s weekly COVID-19 incidence rate is down to 37.5 per 100,000 residents. The local positivity rate has dropped to 3.9 per cent, according to the health unit.

The City of Ottawa has administered 89 per cent of the 604,790 COVID-19 vaccine doses it’s received. The city received a shipment of 62,940 doses this week.

OPH says 551,442 Ottawa residents have had at least one shot of a COVID-19 vaccine, which equals 52 per cent of the city’s population and 64 per cent of residents over the age of 18. More than 53,000 residents have received two doses of a COVID-19 vaccine, which equals five per cent of the total population.

There have been 27,139 confirmed cases of novel coronavirus in Ottawa (25,969 resolved) since the spring of 2020.

Ontario is reporting 733 new cases of COVID-19 today, including three in the Eastern Ontario Health Unit’s region, one in the Leeds, Grenville and Lanark district and one in Renfrew County and district.

Schools won’t re-open this school year

ONTARIO – After days of consultation, the Ontario government has decided against re-opening schools for in-person classes for the remainder of the school year.

The Ford government made its highly-anticipated announcement today (June 2) confirming students will not be back in classrooms before the end of the school year.

Speaking at Queen’s Park today with Education Minister Stephen Lecce and Health Minister Christine Elliott, Premier Doug Ford said it just simply isn’t the right time to risk having students and staff assemble inside a classroom.

Ford pointed to the risk of the emerging delta B.1.617 COVID-19 variant first detected in India, which is rapidly growing provincewide and could become the most dominant strain in Ontario.

“The experts couldn’t tell us returning to in-class learning before more teachers and students are immunized won’t lead to thousands and thousands of new cases,” Ford said during his media availability. “The experts couldn’t tell us that it couldn’t risk spreading new variants. These aren’t risks I am willing to take.”

After meeting with his cabinet earlier today, there was speculation the province would opt to keep students out of schools until next fall in an effort to reopen the economy ahead of schedule.

Schools were closed to in-person learning in mid-April as the province fought a deadly third wave driven by more infectious variants of COVID-19. There are now just more than three weeks left in the school year.

The decision on schools comes as the provincial stay-at-home order is lifted, allowing for residents to leave the house for non-essential reasons with other pandemic restrictions still in effect.

Yesterday, Ontario reported its smallest daily increase of COVID-19 cases since before the peak of the second wave.

The steady decrease in infections led the government to unveil its reopening plan last month, with the first of three phases set to take effect in mid-June.

Schools, however, were not part of the plan.

Ford sent a note to various health and education stakeholders last week asking for advice on whether it would be safe to reopen for in-person learning.

In it, Ford wrote “no one wants to see our schools re-open safely more than I do,” adding his government understands the benefits of having kids return to class, it can only be done based on “sound scientific advice, consensus and considers potential or future risks faced by students and staff.”

Ottawa Mayor Jim Watson, supported by chair of the citys public health board, Coun. Keith Egli’s were disappointed with the decision.

“Today’s decision by the Government of Ontario to not re-open schools on a regional basis is deeply disappointing,” the mayor released in a statement earlier today (June 2). “This decision was made despite the advice of local public health units, including Ottawa Public Health, CHEO, medical experts and the Science Advisory Table. These last 15 months have been challenging for education staff, parents, kids and caregivers. There is no doubt that today’s news will make the next few weeks even harder. Schools are not just place to learn, but a place of personal growth and development of interpersonal relationships, which are key to a child’s mental health.

“We join Dr. Etches in reminding residents that it is ok not to be ok. It’s ok to ask for help. If you feel like you need help, Ottawa Public Health has a number of mental health resources and supports on their website at OttawaPublicHealth.ca. If you can, reach out to friends and family with children and see if there is anything you can do to help.

“As we head into the summer and the prospect of a gradual reopening, to ensure that schools can reopen safely in the fall, we urge all Ottawa residents to continue to follow public health guidelines, including to get vaccinated when it is your turn.”

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