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New data out of Ontario shows many of its schools were hit by high rates of absences when in-person classes resumed last week, and Quebec has begun rolling out the next step in its efforts to boost COVID-19 vaccination rates.

More than 300 Ontario schools reported absence rates higher than 30 per cent by the end of last week, which saw planned classroom reopenings disrupted by harsh winter conditions in much of the province.

The numbers don’t indicate the reasons behind the absences nor whether they are related to COVID-19. Ontario is no longer publishing information on cases in schools due to a restricted testing policy, but began sharing data on absences online today.

As of Friday, 337 schools had absent rates of at least 30 per cent, including 111 schools that were more than half empty. That’s based on numbers made available for 3,451 of the province’s 4,844 schools.

The province reported that 16 schools, or 0.3 per cent, were closed as of Friday.

Ontario logged 3,861 hospitalizations related to COVID-19 on Monday, including 615 patients in intensive care. Health Minister Christine Elliott noted that not all hospitals report weekend data.

Thirty-seven more people have died from the virus, officials said. The province reported 4,790 new COVID-19 cases, but Public Health Ontario has said this is an undercount because of changes to the province’s testing policy.

Meanwhile, Quebec extended its proof-of-vaccination requirements to apply to big-box stores, such as Walmart and Costco.

Later Monday, deputy health minister Lionel Carmant was to reveal the government’s plan to get more people vaccinated against COVID-19.

The province reported 3,299 hospitalizations related to COVID-19, including 263 intensive care cases.

There were 52 more COVID-19 deaths, the province said. Officials reported 2,807 new COVID-19 cases on Monday, but say the tally doesn’t capture the scope of the virus’s spread because PCR testing is limited to certain high-risk groups.

On the East Coast, Newfoundland and Labrador hit a new high of 21 people hospitalized with COVID-19. The province reported 349 new cases on Monday, and the province’s 31st COVID-19 death.

In New Brunswick, officials said there were three more deaths linked to COVID-19, and 131 patients in hospital with the disease, including 12 intensive care cases.

Prince Edward Island’s chief medical officer confirmed today that another Islander has died as a result of COVID-19.

Dr. Heather Morrison issued a statement saying the individual was in their 80s.

Morrison also reported 209 new cases of the disease as of this morning, bringing the active case count to 2,484.

The new cases are under investigation.

Over the past week, there have been an average of 279 new cases reported every day.

As of Sunday, there were nine people with COVID-19 recovering in hospital, including one in intensive care.

The Island has recorded a total of 6,125 infections since the pandemic was declared in March 2020.

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