Greater Sudbury schools switch to virtual learning as Ontario activates emergency brake for Public Health Sudbury & Districts

The Ontario Government, on the advice of the Chief Medical Officer of Health, activated the “emergency brake” for Public Health Sudbury & Districts. The entire service area will be moving into the Grey-Lockdown zone of the provincial COVID-19 response framework effective Friday, March 12, 2021, at 12:01 a.m. In addition, Dr. Penny Sutcliffe, Medical Officer of Health, in consultation with Directors of Education from area school boards, has instructed all schools in Greater Sudbury and the Sudbury and Manitoulin districts, with the exception of Chapleau area schools, to transition to virtual learning, effective Monday, March 15. Private schools are similarly affected throughout Public Health’s entire service area.

“With the increasing rates of COVID-19 cases, a number of active outbreaks, the growing proportion of variants of concern (VOCs) and ample evidence of community spread, pulling the emergency brake is an immediate action needed to help disrupt the chain of transmission and slow the spread of COVID-19, which has been accelerating at an alarming rate in recent days and weeks,” said Dr. Penny Sutcliffe, Medical Officer of Health with Public Health Sudbury & Districts. “Also, in consultation with the area school boards and leadership from other schools, schools will transition to virtual learning in all schools, public and private, in Public Health Sudbury & Districts service area with the exception of Chapleau as an additional layer of protection. With current numbers of cases and VOCs, we have hit a tipping point whereby the benefits of face-to-face learning are outweighed by the risks in of COVID-19 transmission in our community. Public Health’s ability to prevent further spread through case and contact follow-up is increasingly stretched and we are at capacity. Moving into the Lockdown zone will be the circuit breaker we need to set us on a steady course. I recognize these developments will be difficult for many. Now is the time to support one another, commit to the requirements in the Lockdown zone and continue to be kind and patient,” added Dr. Sutcliffe.

The decision to dismiss schools and transition to virtual learning further strengthens the public health measures introduced in the move into Grey-Lockdown and will affect schools located in Greater Sudbury and the Sudbury and Manitoulin districts in five school boards: Rainbow District School Board, Sudbury Catholic District School Board, Conseil scolaire public du Grand Nord de l’Ontario, Conseil scolaire catholique du Nouvelon, and the Huron-Superior Catholic District School Board.

“This is a very fluid situation, and I will be closely monitoring it to ensure students and staff can return to in-person learning when it is safe to do so,” added Dr. Sutcliffe.

Public Health is reminding everyone to be vigilant and follow public health measures. Stay home as much as possible. Wear your mask, practise physical distancing, wash your hands, limit travel, and only go out for essential reasons and work remotely if possible. All of these measures are effective, and they will work against the variants of concern (VOC) if they are carefully followed.

The length of the Grey-Lockdown and the return to in-person learning will be based on local circumstances such as number of cases, variants of concern (VOCs), active outbreaks, and health system capacity. There is no predetermined end date.

Several concerning trends contributed to the decision to move Public Health Sudbury & Districts service area into Grey-Lockdown. There are 12 active outbreaks, including 6 in schools. The 7-day incidence rate was 71.9 new cases per 100 000 population compared to 12.6 two weeks ago. Percent positivity was 1.99% compared to 0.35% two weeks ago. In addition, cases indicate the potential to be one of these variants of concern (VOC). Further laboratory testing is underway to confirm if these cases are, in fact, variants of concern (VOC). Percent positivity for variants of concern (VOCs) in the past week was 48.3%.

Additional measures in effect in Grey-Lockdown include no indoor gatherings, except with members of the same household, outdoor gathering limits, closures to restaurants, bars, personal care services, sports and recreation facilities, and capacity limits in retail stores. Regardless of the Framework level, it is critical to maintain public health measures to slow or limit the spread of COVID-19. Further details about the provincial response framework can be found at (Government of Ontario).

For more information or if you have questions, please visit or call Public Health Sudbury & Districts at 705.522.9200 (toll-free 1.866.522.9200). Public Health is experiencing a very high volume of calls. All calls will be returned but please know that it may take several days. Patience is appreciated.

This item was last modified on March 11, 2021