Ottawa's top doctor hopes schools reopen next week

Cheryl Sanders
May 28, 2021

The impact of COVID-19 variants and relatively low rates of vaccinated teachers and students raises serious concerns about reopening schools, Ontario Premier Doug Ford said Thursday, as he sought last-minute advice on whether to resume in-person learning for the final month of the academic year.

Schools have been shut in Ontario since April amid a third wave of COVID-19 infections that has been steadily declining in recent weeks.

"Doug Ford needs to stop treating kids' education as an afterthought, and spend what it takes to make schools safe, including smaller class sizes and better ventilation", said Stiles.

Pediatric hospitals and doctors have been calling on the government to immediately reopen schools amid a decline in cases, saying in-person learning is crucial to children's well-being.

COVID-19 cases have dropped since schools were closed and a stay-at-home order was imposed but experts say resuming classes at this stage is not without risk. "There is consensus in some quarters on how, when and whether schools should reopen, and diverse and conflicting views in others", said Ford. Is this concern not shared by medical experts in Ontario? 6.

Dr. Lawrence Loh, medical officer of health for hard-hit Peel Region, said discussions were ongoing but the COVID-19 situation was looking up.

"What makes all this new information concerning is that ... only 41 per cent of teachers and education workers are vaccinated compared to 62 per cent of the general adult population in Ontario", Ford wrote.

"The sooner we can get more people vaccinated, the sooner we're going to see things like case rates go down, hospitalizations go down, intensive care units not be as full as they are", she said.

In an open letter, which sparked criticism the premier was ducking his decision-making responsibility, Ford asked dozens of recipients whether returning to physical classrooms could be done safely.

"This is astonishing to me that we're hearing public musings from the chief medical officer of health about reopening schools when there has been no proposed plan (and) there has been absolutely no transparency around the metrics upon which they're basing this", Bischof said in an interview.

"It's the end of May, and just now Mr. Ford is asking health and education experts for feedback?"

"The decision to return to in-person learning, and when, will be made by the Ministry of Education in consultation with the Ministry of Health".

On Thursday, a spokesperson for Premier Doug Ford confirmed to Daily Hive that it may be possible for Ontario to enter Phase 1 of its reopening plan earlier than the forecasted date of June 14 if vaccination levels are high enough and cases are low.

Is the reopening of schools for in-person learning safe for teachers and all education staff?

The premier of Ontario wants feedback on whether to open up our schools next month or not. "At the same time we know other jurisdictions are seeing a rapid increase in new, more unsafe variants that are more contagious, make people and children in particular sicker, are potentially more deadly and are more resistant to vaccines".

All Ontario schools were switched to remote learning only, following a week-long spring break in April. He also asks whether one vaccine dose is sufficient to protect teachers and whether classes should resume before indoor gatherings are permitted in July.

The letter poses seven COVID-19 safety-related questions for doctors, scientists, public health authorities and teacher unions.

"I'd like to actually be able to see what the province makes their decision on and. what they decide to move forward with", she said.

It calls for a response by Friday at 5 p.m.

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