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Premier says province will ‘expedite’ licensing for new school bus drivers amid shortage concerns

Ontario Premier Doug Ford and Education Minister Stephen Lecce are defending the province’s preparations for student transportation this fall.

 

Premier says province will expedite-stastistic-canada-mileniostadium
Some school bus drivers say they have not received detailed COVID-19 safety protocols with just weeks to go before the start of class. (Bert Savard/CBC)

 

Some school bus drivers say they have not received COVID-19 safety protocols with just weeks to go before the start of class.

Others told CBC Toronto earlier this month that they are unsure if they’ll return to work at all, given concerns about crowded buses with insufficient physical distancing.

At his daily news conference on Tuesday, Ford said that bus driver shortages are something the province deals with “every single year.”

Ford said the province will expedite all the first-time bus drivers who are waiting to go through the Ministry of Transportation for licensing.

Lecce added that the province is investing $1 billion in transportation this year, which he called “highest investment in transportation in Ontario history.”

The bus drivers, who are represented by Unifor, held a press conference Tuesday to discuss their request for information on safety measures on their vehicles.

The union says many of its drivers are senior citizens and are more vulnerable to the coronavirus.

100 cases reported Tuesday

Ontario reported another 100 confirmed cases of COVID-19 on Tuesday, bringing the province’s total to 41,607 since the outbreak began in January.

The 0.2 per cent increase in cumulative cases across Ontario comes as the province’s network of labs processed more than 20,000 tests yesterday, Health Minister Christine Elliott said in a series of tweets.

 

Premier says province will expedite-bus-canada-mileniostadium
The totals do not include 291 previously confirmed cases that were added to the provincial count on June 6 and 7 because of “a lag in reporting between laboratories and public health units.” Data from 11 public health units was missing on August 20, then added to the August 21 total. Source: Ontario Ministry of Health

 

Most of the province’s 34 public health regions are keeping transmission rates of the novel coronavirus relatively low with 30 reporting five or fewer newly confirmed cases in today’s update. Of those 30, 18 saw no new cases at all.

There are currently 1,059 confirmed, active cases in the province, after 75 more were marked resolved in today’s update. The majority active cases are concentrated in Peel, Toronto, and Ottawa.

Ontario’s official COVID-19 death toll grew by two, and now sits at 2,800. A CBC News count based on data from public health units puts the real toll at 2,834.

There is one less person with a confirmed cases of the illness hospitalized since Sunday, but the number of patients on ventilators increased from seven to 10.

All of the figures used in this story are found in the Ministry of Health’s daily update, which includes data from up until 4 p.m. the previous day. The number of cases for any particular region on a given day may differ from what is reported by the local public health unit, which often avoid lag times in the provincial system.

New Catholic school to be built in Etobicoke

On Tuesday, Ford also announced that a new Catholic school will be built in Etobicoke. 

“This new school will serve up to 600 kids,” said Ford. “The project will also create 88 new affordable childcare spaces.”  The project will cost just under $16 million, part of a 10-year, $12 billion dollar provincial investment in new and exising schools.

Ontario released a school reopening plan weeks ago which will see students return to class in early September. School boards have been given permission to stagger the start of classes over the first two weeks of the academic year if they need more time to prepare.

Teachers’ unions and parents have expressed concern that the Ontario government’s approach has not done enough to lower class sizes and encourage physical distancing.

CBC/MS

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