Ontario is delaying the return to school until Jan. 5 due to the recent spike in COVID-19 cases.

Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Kieran Moore made the announcement on Thursday afternoon following a cabinet meeting earlier in the day. Neither Ford or Education Minister Stephen Lecce joined Moore to make the announcement. 

Most students across Ontario were supposed to return to school on Jan. 3 following the winter break. 

The government said the delay has been put in place to allow time to deploy additional safety measures. 

The government said they will provide non-fit-tested N95 masks for staff in schools and licensed child care settings as an optional alternative to medical or surgical masks.

They will also send an additional supply of high-quality three-ply cloth masks that are "strongly encouraged and free for students and children in January."

The government said they will also deploy an additional 3,000 standalone HEPA filter units to school boards, which will build on the existing 70,000 currently in schools.

When students return to school in January, only low-contact indoor sports and safe extra-curricular activities will be permitted, the government said.

Ontario is the latest province to announce changes to the start of school due to the fast-spreading Omicron variant. Some provinces have decided to prolong the winter break for some or all students, while others have opted to switch to virtual learning starting next week.

Ontario also announced today it is shortening its COVID-19 isolation guidelines for some residents and introducing new testing guidelines for the public.

The province is shortening the required isolation period from ten days to five for vaccinated individuals, citing evidence that "generally healthy people with COVID-19 are most infectious in the two days before and three days after symptoms develop."

Ontario also announced Thursday it will be restricting spectators at large sporting and entertainment events to 1,000 people.

The news comes as the province set a record Thursday with 13,807 COVID-19 infections and a surge in hospitalizations.