Experts urge Quebec to delay reopening of schools, saying coming weeks are critical

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MONTREAL – Quebec is 11 days away from its planned 18-day “break”, and COVID-19 numbers do not look good. It’s safe to say that the lockdown has so far not held back the spread of the virus.
Now infectious disease experts say the next few weeks will be critical in bringing the virus under control – and that January 11 is too early to reopen schools in particular.

“If we do it now, with numbers so high, it won’t work, and the numbers will just go up more and more,” said Michael Levy, an environmental health specialist.

“We have to balance that to get as far as possible until we get the vaccine, until people are vaccinated.”

While some parents may be planning to send their children back to school, many others are concerned about the idea. The Montreal father who is behind the Covid Écoles Québec website, which tracks school epidemics, says parents and teachers have written to him worrying about the safety of their families.

“The numbers have only gotten worse,” said site founder Olivier Drouin. “So the break didn’t help from an economic standpoint, from a school standpoint – it’s actually getting worse. The key indicators are all red. ”

But for many parents, balancing different worries is incredibly stressful, one said.

“If you are working, what are you supposed to do?” said Kathy Korakasis, who heads the Association of English Parents Committee.

“And if you choose to send your child to school, that doesn’t mean you like him less,” she says. “It just means that unless the government shuts down all the businesses, what should you do? ”

Some suggest other solutions besides postponing the reopening of the school, including instituting frequent rapid tests, stricter protocols and additional air purifiers.

An open letter from scientists and healthcare workers on Monday urged Canadian health officials to take aerosol transmission of COVID-19 more seriously and focus on ventilation and air filtration.

“Every time we open [schools], let’s make sure we don’t go back with the same measures that don’t work, ”Levy said.

“Give parents the choice to have distance learning,” he added.

The Quebec Ministry of Education said Monday that while the data is very worrying, the priority remains to keep schools open.

But that doesn’t rule out the possibility of taking further action – or extending the lockdown.

Teachers are also eager to hear what the plans are, saying they need time to prepare.

Premier François Legault has scheduled a special press conference for Wednesday at 5 p.m. to give some sort of update on COVID, although the province has not clarified the subject.

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