The toll from NSW’s Delta outbreak has topped 500 with four more deaths confirmed on Monday.
But case numbers have also remained relatively low, two weeks after NSW celebrated its “freedom day”, with another 294 on Monday.
Vaccination rates in NSW continue to surge – 93 per cent of people over 16 have had a first dose and nearly 85 per cent are fully vaccinated.
There have been 502 COVID-related deaths in NSW since the latest wave began on June 16.
The deaths reported on Monday were three men and a woman – one in their 40s. The others were in their 60s and 70s.
Three were from Sydney and one from the central coast.
There are 474 virus patients in NSW hospitals, 116 of them in intensive care.
Monday’s update came as all student year groups returned to classrooms in NSW for face-to-face learning, despite some schools being closed for deep cleaning after COVID-19 cases.
Kindergarten, year one and year 12 students went back to school in NSW last week. Other years joined them on Monday.
Non-urgent elective surgery will also resume at public and private hospitals within greater Sydney on Monday after being cancelled in August to stop hospitals from being overwhelmed as COVID-19 cases soared.
Overnight elective surgery will be capped at 75 per cent in both public and private facilities but private facilities can exceed the cap if they are providing surgery for public patients.
There are no restrictions in regional hospitals providing overnight non-urgent elective surgery.
Jury trials will also resume in the district court with COVID-19 safety precautions, including a requirement for jurors to be fully vaccinated and practice social distancing.
Premier Dominic Perrottet admitted there would be challenges as 810,000 students headed back to school but he was “very confident” it would go well.
“We’ve had a number of schools close but the alternative is to keep all schools closed,” Mr Perrottet said on Sunday.
“We’re not doing that.”
On Sunday night, NSW Education announced 16 schools were shut for cleaning and contact tracing after positive virus tests in their communities.
Asked about reports up to 160 schools throughout NSW had staffing issues as students returned, Mr Perrottet said he was aware there would be some shortages.
“There will always be teachers and people across our state who just decide not to get vaccinated,” he said.
“That’s their choice. We believe it’s a bad choice but ultimately, that success rate of 95 per cent has helped us get our kids back in the classroom.”
All teachers are required to be fully vaccinated and vaccines are recommended for students 12 and older.
Masks are compulsory for teachers and high school students and are strongly recommended for primary school students.