The province should reduce capacity in other areas before keeping schools closed, says the head of Ontario’s COVID-19 science table

The Ford government should not close schools until it further tightens capacity limits and encourages more people to work from home, says the scientific director of the province’s COVID-19 scientific table.

While parents continue to wait to find out if schools will reopen as planned next week – and if they will stand and struggle to find last-minute care for their children – said Dr. Peter Juni “Right now where we are, with the measures we have in place, schools are not the next lever to control the pandemic. That is very clear.”

The province is expected to announce its plans on Thursday and has been urged to provide upgraded masks to staff given the highly portable Omicron variant. Since several other provinces have already delayed the start of classes in January a bit, insiders predict that Ontario will do the same with at least a few days, but say no plans have been finalized yet.

BC was the latest province to announce that while students with special needs and children of essential workers will return next week, and the rest in phases, with full enrollment by January 10th. The government said Wednesday that its goal is to keep children in the class personally until June.

Ontario’s Minister of Education Stephen Lecce and Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Kieran Moore has also said that their priority is to keep schools open.

“We know how critical personal learning is, and therefore we have followed the advice of the head of health and invested in safer schools with improved ventilation in every school in this province,” said Caitlin Clark, Lecce’s director of media relations, noting that the province has provided 70,000 HEPA air filter units for schools and that the youth vaccination rate is high.

“With the Omicron variant on us, we take nothing for granted as we work with the health director along the way rather than protecting personal learning and keeping all students, families and staff as safe as possible.”

Since the pandemic began, Ontario has closed schools and relocated children online for at least 26 weeks – more than any other province.

NDP leader Andrea Horwath told Star that parents are excited and waiting for news, and “unfortunately that’s the way they do things – they wait until the last minute and it’s disrespectful to parents and families and education workers and all who needs it. has time to plan that kind of thing. ”

Because Ontario’s case numbers are at record highs, and as families socializing during the holidays could potentially lead to more infections, Drs. Anna Banerji that it may be the answer to keep the children at home for a week or two, “because it does not make good sense to open schools and then close them down again.”

June noted that school closures have been difficult for students’ mental health and well-being, and “again to consider that schools do not reopen until we impose proper capacity limits of 25 per cent” in retail and restaurants, and “lower capacity dramatically in sports arenas – all that should come first. We need to be aware of what we are doing (that closing) schools is associated with disproportionate damage and will result in even more inequalities. “

A letter signed by more than 500 Ontario doctors was sent to Premier Doug Ford, Lecce and Moore, stating that “several jurisdictions around the world have committed themselves to keeping schools open, regardless of the number of cases, and we are have to do the same. “

They note that although there have been COVID cases in schools, “there has been little or no COVID-19 transmission occurring in the school environment”, and children appear to have milder cases.

“There will be a large number of children who will be infected – it’s just part of this Omicron wave,” June also said. “We can not change that. Most of it will be community transfer and household. We can not say how much the schools will contribute.”

The Ontario Public School Boards’ Association said they are hoping for news from the government sooner rather than later.

“It’s not just for school boards – it will take us a day or two to turn to online learning – but I’m also thinking of families with young children who may have gone back to the office because the children go to school. happen on Monday if there is no school? ” said President Cathy Abraham, who also wants N95 masks for all staff.

On Wednesday, Amy McQuaid-England hosted a #MomsAreNotOkay discussion on social media and heard from many parents who say they can not find care or can not afford to stay home from work every time their child has a symptom.

The mother of two, a former Oshawa city councilor, said “the Ford government is constantly leaving us to the last minute, as if we can just pull childcare out of nowhere.”

Parents, she added, “desperately want schools to be open, but they want schools to be safe.”

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