WINDSOR, ONT. -- Windsor-Essex schools will remain closed for in-person learning for at least four more weeks.

Ontario Premier Doug Ford made the announcement on Tuesday. He also issued a stay-at-home order and declared a state of emergency for the province.

Based on the advice of the Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. David Williams, Ford said schools in the following public health units will continue online learning until Feb. 10:

  • Windsor-Essex
  • Peel Region
  • Toronto
  • York
  • Hamilton

By Jan. 20, Williams will advise the Ministry of Education on which public health units will be permitted to resume in-person instruction, based on the most up-to-date data and modelling. Before-and after-school programs can be offered when in-person instruction resumes. Schools in northern public health units will continue to remain open.

During this extended period of online learning, in areas where in-person elementary learning is suspended, emergency child care will continue for eligible families in regions subject to school closures.

"At the heart of our continued efforts to protect against the spread of COVID-19 in our communities is a firm commitment to return kids to school safely," said Education Minister Stephen Lecce. "Protecting our students, staff and their families is our top priority, and these additional measures build on our comprehensive plan to reopen schools and keep young children in child care safe."

Windsor mayor Drew Dilkens issued a statement about new restrictions announced by the provincial government on Tuesday.

“I fully support the new restrictions announced by Premier Ford and will be working with City Administration to ensure we are doing all we can to protect our staff and the public,” said Dilkens. “The Provincial and Federal Governments have been forced to make some impossible decisions. Pandemic restrictions have already caused significant economic harm for families and small businesses in Windsor.”

The Windsor-Essex County Health Unit reported 16 more deaths and 175 new COVID-19 cases on Tuesday. The death toll in the region is 226.

“Our hospitals are full, thousands of our neighbours have gotten sick and over 225 have now died,” said Dilkens. “I’ve said many times before, no elected official seeks public office on a platform to shut down their community or set out to increase unemployment and hardship. But COVID-19 will not win. It is no match for the community spirit and resilience that I know resides here in Windsor.”

Windsor-Essex medical officer of health Dr. Wajid Ahmed said he supports measures that limit gathering.

“With measures that limit or restrict the number of people coming together in numbers, that would be a welcome sign,” said Ahmed.