Published Wednesday, February 3, 2021 5:14AM EST
Last Updated Wednesday, February 3, 2021 5:54PM EST
The Ford government has announced that schools will reopen in an additional 13 public health units as of Monday, including Durham and Halton regions.
But it says that schools will remain remote-only in Toronto, Peel and York for another week and will instead reopen after the Family Day long weekend on Feb. 16.
Schools were closed following the holiday break as part of a provincewide lockdown that went into effect on Boxing Day.
Elementary students in southern Ontario were initially supposed to return to the classroom on Jan. 11 with secondary students following two weeks later but the Ford government opted to keep most schools shuttered as COVID-19 case counts surged immediately following the holidays.
Since then community transmission of the novel coronavirus appears to have slowed, with the rolling seven-day average of new infections dropping from 2,850 on Jan. 20 to about 1,800 as of today.
Against this backdrop students in northern Ontario were given the green light to return to in-person instruction on Jan. 11 and schools in 11 other public health units in southern regions of the province have since been permitted to reopen as well.
MORE: ‘No perfect solutions,’ but Toronto schools can reopen with safety measures, vigilance: de Villa
“I want to be clear if things change, if trends move in the wrong direction we will not hesitate to act following the advice of the Chief Medical Officer of Health,” Lecce said on Wednesday, noting that local medical officers of health will still have the authority to order the closure of schools in their communities. “That is why we are going to monitor the trends and continue to be in close contact with the local medical officers of health to ensure we deliver on the number one priority of our government, which is keeping schools safe.”