The number of Ontario schools with at least one active case of COVID-19 has now reached its highest point so far this year.

The Ministry of Education says that there are now 836 schools with at least one active case of the disease caused by the novel coronavirus, accounting for more than 17 per cent of all public schools in the province.

That is more than double the 474 schools that had at least one case at this time last month.

The ministry is also reporting an additional 345 new cases of the virus over a 72-hour period ending on Monday afternoon, marking the highest weekend total of new infections reported so far this year.

The previous high was last weekend when publicly-funded school boards reported 320 new cases in students and staff.

“We're working diligently with the Ministry of Education to review whether we have to put any other public health measures in place in schools to further protect them and keep our schools safe. I think it's clear from our associates and our medical officers health across this province that our schools should be the first to open and the last to close and we're doing our utmost to ensure that our schools are protected,” Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Kieran Moore told reporters during a briefing on Tuesday.

According to the latest data there are now 1,947 active cases of COVID-19 associated with Ontario’s public school system, a number that wasn’t reached until late March in the last school year.

Outbreaks in the school setting also continue to increase with a total of 237 currently active, including 219 in elementary schools.

The only time that there has been a higher number of active outbreaks in schools was at the height of the third wave of the pandemic in April when the number peaked at 264 immediately prior to the suspension of in-person learning.

The good news is that the number of schools that are closed due to COVID-19 outbreaks or for operational reasons related to the pandemic has been stable and now stands at eight.

More than 22 per cent of children aged five to 11 have also received their first dose of COVID-19 vaccine.

“That gives me further confidence that we can improve on the safety of our schools through the robust immunization strategy,” Moore said Tuesday. “If you just compare the secondary schools with the elementary schools, the number of outbreaks in the secondary schools are fewer, they are smaller and the length of time that students have had to be out of school is less. I hope we'll have the same benefits as we improve immunization rates in our elementary sector.”

At this point in 2020, a total of 10 schools had been switched to remote learning though the number rose rapidly in the days leading up to the holiday break.