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Critics are calling on the Ontario government to provide clarity on the planned return to school next week amid record-high COVID-19 infections.

Premier Doug Ford has said an announcement is coming within days on whether schools will resume in person on Monday, as the Omicron variant strains public health resources such as contact tracing and testing.

NDP Leader Andrea Horwath says the government should have used the holiday period to make schools safer with plans for regular testing, better masks and improved ventilation.

She says it’s “ridiculous” that families are still in the dark with classes set to resume in a few days.

School closures during the COVID-19 pandemic are having a detrimental effect on students and families, research shows

Liberal Leader Steven Del Duca says the government hasn’t taken enough measures to make schools safer after closing them for long periods of time earlier in the pandemic.

A spokeswoman for Education Minister Stephen Lecce says the government is committed to protecting students, staff and families, but didn’t give a specific date for the decision on schools opening next week.

Meanwhile, Ontario is reporting 10,436 new COVID-19 cases and three deaths from the virus today.

The daily infection tally broke the record set on Christmas day – which saw 10,412 cases – for the most cases reported in a single day since the pandemic began in Ontario.

Provincial data show that 190 people are currently in intensive care due to COVID-19, including 104 people on ventilators.

In total, the province reported 726 people hospitalized with COVID-19.

A government website noted that 10 per cent of hospitals did not submit daily data and the number of hospitalized patients is expected to increase.

The province says 81 per cent of all residents aged five and older have received two doses of a COVID-19 vaccine and 86 per cent have at least one shot.

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