Nearly two months after the Christmas Break, Ontario is just beginning to reopen from lock-downs and Stay-at-Home orders. Tens of thousands of businesses remain shut. Over a million students are just this week returning to in-school learning. COVID-19 infections have only now fallen to levels seen during the build up to Christmas. Now, as we have crested the midway point of the winter season, one week school breaks are on the horizon. So too is the aftermath.
To be clear, the Christmas Break alone did not cause the massive increase in COVID-19 infections, people did. Numbers were already on the rise as people did their last-minute shopping. During the two-week break and despite public health guidance, people visited others. Not at the same level or extent as past holiday seasons, but it was done. That contributed to the skyrocketing numbers after Christmas and the Stay-at-Home order that is set to expire this week, unless extended.
There are other causes to be sure: the abject failure of long-term care homes to isolate residents; workers having to choose between unpaid time off or working when they are ill; the inequality of housing and lodging for people once they are infected so that they do not spread the virus to others. That does not excuse the biggest contributing factor to this nearly two month shut down – people. We are set to go down this road again with the upcoming school breaks. We shouldn’t, and we can’t.
As travel restrictions remain, few can travel out of the country for a sunny holiday for Spring or March Break. But as we’ve seen with the Christmas Break, it doesn’t take much for some people to get together and the COVID-19 virus thrives on that. Taking a week off, with nothing to do in the way of travel, will mean many people will gather. That one week could have weeks of potentially deadly repercussions.
The responsible thing to do would be to cancel March Break altogether for 2021.
Students were out of in-school learning for over a month and really could use the extra week of learning. Additionally, businesses and families really cannot afford the impact of a week-long break and its aftermath. If two weeks of Christmas Break can cause two months of disruption, what can a week do? People cannot afford any more shutdowns, lock-downs, stay-at-home orders or the like. While a break for a week may sound like it will help, it will only hurt in the short and long term.
If all else fails, move the week of Spring Break to the end of the school year in June. Dismiss students from school a week early, when hopefully the province, and the country, are in a better position to really enjoy the break.