Ford government launches online learning portal for kids as COVID-19 cases in province top 300

The Ontario government said it is launching a new online learning portal for students shut out of their schools as part of the province’s effort to contain COVID-19s.

Called “Learn from Home,” the province says the portal will offer ” high-quality, made-in-Ontario math and literacy resources, created by Ontario-certified educators, in both English and French.”

All of Ontario’s publicly-funded schools were closed for two weeks after March Break to April 5 by a ministerial order earlier this month, and all standardized testing has been cancelled. As part of the state of emergency declared by Premier Doug Ford on Tuesday, private schools and daycares are also closed.

The news comes as public health authorities in Ontario confirmed 50 new cases of COVID-19 on Friday morning, marking the largest single-day increase since the outbreak began and pushing the provincial total to 308.

The official tally includes two deaths and five cases considered resolved.

Four of the new instances are residents of a long-term care home in Oshawa.

The number of cases under investigation in the province has reached 5,485, a 28 per cent increase from the 3,971 reported as of Thursday evening. Public Health Ontario said this week that the average turnaround time for tests is four days, however various medical professionals have told CBC Toronto that the waiting period is between five and seven days.

The newly announced Ontario cases bring the total across Canada to 927, including 12 deaths.

2nd phase for online learning possible

At a news conference at Queen’s Park, Ford outlined the online learning content alongside Minister of Education Stephen Lecce and Minister of Health Christine Elliott.

The resources offer interactive activities for elementary students and a focus on STEM courses for high school students.

Many of the online activities are from TVO, the province’s public broadcaster.

Its television schedule is also being changed to add more educational programming for kids during the day.

A release from the government says that “work is underway” to provide the necessary technology to any student that doesn’t have access to a computer, though it doesn’t detail how that will be accomplished.

Lecce said that if school closures must stay in place past April 5, a second phase of online resources will be available to students and families.

Grace period for property tax, utilities in Toronto

Meanwhile, Toronto residents will have an extra 60 days to pay property tax, water and solid waste utility bills, the city said Friday as it tries to limit economic fallout from measures to contain COVID-19.

Mayor John Tory’s office said in a statement that the grace period is retroactive to March 16.

Similarly, a 30-day extension offered earlier this week to businesses on tax and utility payments has also been pushed to 60 days.

“This will ensure that resident and businesses who find themselves facing financial hardship due to COVID-19 can defer their next property tax instalment without penalty,” Tory’s office said. Property tax accounts will be “adjusted as necessary” to reflect the relief measures, it added.

Dr. Eileen De Villa, Toronto’s medical officer of health, said Thursday afternoon that 128 of the province’s cases are in the city. Eleven of those patients are being treated in hospital, while the rest are at home in self-isolation, she said.

Updated numbers are expected from the province around 5:30 p.m. ET.

And at 12:30 p.m., Ontario Premier Doug Ford, along with his ministers of health and education, will make an announcement at Queen’s Park.

Earlier this month, Education Minister Stephen Lecce issued an order to close all publicly-funded schools in the province until April 3.

4 cases in Oshawa long-term care home

The patients in the Hillsdale Terraces long-term care facility include two women, ages 92 and 80, and two men, ages 71 and 68. All are currently being treated in two separate wards of the home, officials said, and they will remain there for the duration of their recoveries.

COVID-19 outbreaks in long-term care facilities have proven especially deadly. In B.C., seven residents of the Lynn Valley Care Centre Lodge in North Vancouver have died from the respiratory illness.

Meanwhile, U.S. health officials have linked 35 deaths to the spread of COVID-19 at the Life Care Center in Kirkland, Wash.


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