Education Minister Stephen Lecce announced that all publicly-funded schools will remain closed until at least May 31, 2020, as part of an effort to keep students, staff and families safe from COVID-19.
The extension was based on expert advice from the Chief Medical Officer of Health and health officials on the COVID-19 Command Table and is part of the government’s ongoing effort to stop the spread of the virus. The advice was to extend school closures for an additional period of time to permit updated modelling and data to inform next steps, given the government’s absolute commitment to safety.
The government took immediate action to close schools in Ontario, the first in Canada to do so. The ministry continues to monitor the evolving situation and if necessary, the closure may be extended further to protect the health and safety of Ontario’s school communities.
At the same time the Ontario government is taking steps to ensure learning can continue. In March the province unveiled its Learn at Home portal. It offers all students high-quality resources, featuring made-in-Ontario math and literacy resources, created by Ontario-certified educators, in both English and French. Elementary resources are designed to help young students learn at home with interactive activities that encourage participation through entertaining and stimulating digital content. High school content was designed with a focus on STEM courses and ensures core competencies and skills are reinforced.
At the end of March the Ministry of Education unveiled the second phase of Learn at Home to ensure the continuity of learning for students. This included providing clarity for parents, enhancing education supports and creating opportunities for educators to connect with students.
The government has also partnered with Rogers Communications and Apple to help meet the educational needs of students and families during the COVID-19 outbreak. iPads are being purchased and distributed by Ontario school boards, pre-equipped with free Rogers LTE wireless data. Apple is providing on-going support in French and English to teachers, parents and students, with a collection of resources to support learning and working from home. To date, over 20,000 iPads have been sent to targeted families in need. The free Rogers wireless data will be available until the end of June.
In recognition of the dedication, long hours and increased risk of working to contain the COVID-19 outbreak, the Ontario government is providing frontline staff with a temporary pandemic payment.
This increase will provide four dollars per hour worked on top of existing hourly wages, regardless of the qualified employee’s hourly wage. In addition, employees working over 100 hours per month would receive lump sum payments of $250 per month for each of the next four months. This means that eligible employees working an average of 40 hours per week would receive $3,560 in additional compensation. Those eligible to receive the payment will be staff working in long-term care homes, retirement homes, emergency shelters, supportive housing, social services congregate care settings, corrections institutions and youth justice facilities, as well as those providing home and community care and some staff in hospitals.
The announcement was made today by Premier Doug Ford, Peter Bethlenfalvy, President of the Treasury Board, Christine Elliott, Deputy Premier and Minister of Health, and Dr. Merrilee Fullerton, Minister of Long-Term Care.
Staff providing frontline clinical services, along with those providing support services, such as cleaning and meal preparation, will be eligible to receive the pandemic payment. The additional compensation is temporary and would begin flowing immediately and continue for 16 weeks.
These measures build on steps the government has already taken to support frontline workers, including providing free emergency child care and securing necessary medical equipment and supplies.
The Ontario government remains committed to using every resource it has to support frontline workers as we work to stop the spread of COVID-19.
Today, the Ontario government released A Framework for Reopening our Province, which outlines the criteria Ontario’s Chief Medical Officer of Health and health experts will use to advise the government on the loosening of emergency measures, as well as guiding principles for the safe, gradual reopening of businesses, services and public spaces. The framework also provides details of an outreach strategy, led by the Ontario Jobs and Recovery Committee, to help inform the restart of the provincial economy.
Details were provided by Premier Doug Ford, Rod Phillips, Minister of Finance, Vic Fedeli, Minister of Economic Development, Job Creation and Trade, and Christine Elliott, Deputy Premier and Minister of Health.
The government is planning a stage-by-stage approach to reopening the economy to ensure there are appropriate measures in place so workplaces can open safely. Public health officials will carefully monitor each stage for two to four weeks, as they assess the evolution of the COVID-19 outbreak to determine if it is necessary to change course to maintain public health.
- Stage 1: For businesses that were ordered to close or restrict operations, opening select workplaces that can immediately modify operations to meet public health guidance. Opening some outdoor spaces like parks and allowing for a greater number of individuals to attend some events. Hospitals would also begin to offer some non-urgent and scheduled surgeries, and other health care services.
- Stage 2: Opening more workplaces, based on risk assessments, which may include some service industries and additional office and retail workplaces. Some larger public gatherings would be allowed, and more outdoor spaces would open.
- Stage 3: Opening of all workplaces responsibly and further relaxing of restrictions on public gatherings.
Throughout each stage, continued protections for vulnerable populations must be in place, along with the continued practice of physical distancing, hand washing and respiratory hygiene, and significant mitigation plans to limit health risks.
To reopen the economy, the government will consider factors such as the risk of the spread of COVID-19 and the ability to implement protective measures to keep workplaces safe. The Chief Medical Officer of Health and health experts will provide advice to the government about easing public health measures using a range of set criteria, including:
- A consistent two-to-four week decrease in the number of new daily COVID-19 cases;
- Sufficient acute and critical care capacity, including access to ventilators and ongoing availability of personal protective equipment;
- Approximately 90 per cent of new COVID-19 contacts are being reached by local public health officials within one day, with guidance and direction to contain community spread; and
- Ongoing testing of suspected COVID-19 cases, especially of vulnerable populations, to detect new outbreaks quickly.
The Ontario government is further expanding the list of essential workers eligible to receive free emergency child care during the COVID-19 outbreak. Those who will benefit include people who work in the food supply chain, retirement homes, grocery stores and pharmacies, and certain federal employees, including the military. Since emergency child care was introduced last month, almost 100 child care centres have reopened along with 40 Licensed Home Child Care Agencies in communities across the province.
The announcement was made today by Premier Doug Ford, Stephen Lecce, Minister of Education, and Christine Elliott, Deputy Premier and Minister of Health.
On March 22, 2020, the government announced an emergency order directing certain child care centres to reopen subject to physical distancing constraints as part of the province’s support for health care and other frontline workers during the COVID-19 outbreak. The list of essential workers eligible to access emergency childcare has now been further expanded. To accommodate more children, 37 additional centres have been approved and will be reopening in the coming days.
The additional frontline workers who can now access emergency childcare services include:
- Workers in grocery stores and pharmacies
- Truck drivers (driver’s licence Class A and Class D)
- Workers in the food supply chain, including food processing
- Workers in retirement homes
- Auxiliary workers in health care settings, including cooks and cleaning staff in hospitals and long-term care homes
- Interpreters and intervenors who support people who are deaf, deafened, hard of hearing and deafblind
- Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry (MNRF) emergency personnel
- Provincial officers and onsite staff in Ontario courts
- Canadian Armed Forces and Department of National Defence staff working in Ontario
- Additional workers supporting public safety and correctional services
The Ontario Ministry of Education is working with Consolidated Municipal Service Managers (CMSM) and District Social Services Administration Boards (DSSAB) in their role as service system managers for early years and child care, as well as First Nations, to implement emergency child care centres in communities across the province.
A list of emergency child care centres is available on Ontario.ca/coronavirus.