Ontario Coronavirus Science Table advises Ford to let schools reopen on a regional basis –

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Ontario Coronavirus Science Table advises Ford to let schools reopen on a regional basis – fr


Ontario’s COVID-19 Science Advisory Table says it believes schools can reopen on a regional basis without risking the province’s progress in reducing the spread of the virus during the third wave of the pandemic.

The science table, made up of medical experts, medical associations and hospitals from across the province, released a statement on Saturday in response to Premier Doug Ford’s letter to health experts and stakeholders seeking their advice on the reopening of schools.

The table said it maintains its long-held belief that schools should be the last area to close and the first to reopen.

“We believe Ontario can safely reopen schools on a regional basis to mitigate the significant short- and long-term damage resulting from school closures, while managing the risk of virus transmission in this area,” the science table said in its statement.

Schools across Ontario have been closed for in-person learning since mid-April, but with the province planning to enter the first phase of its plan to reopen by June 14, there have been more in addition to calls to reopen schools for the remaining few weeks before summer vacation.

The Scientific Table argues that school closures during the pandemic “create damage” by deteriorating the mental health of children and youth.

“This deterioration is now evident in the form of increased use of ambulatory care and hospital admissions, most poignant for children and youth with eating disorders,” the table says.

“We believe these mental health indicators represent the tip of the iceberg and that the mental health of children and youth will present significant long-term challenges as we recover from the pandemic.”

The science table also said that school closures create “ripple effects” for children and families, as social and economic benefits of education are affected, such as loss of skills development, lifetime income, social ties and, for some, missed meals and other critical items. health services.

“Like much of the pandemic, these harms and missed benefits are inequitable: those hit hardest by the pandemic are also hardest hit by school closures,” the table says.

The group had previously said that reopening schools could result in a 6-11% increase in transmission of the virus, which would be low and manageable.

In line with Ontario’s Chief Medical Officer of Health and local medical officers of health, the table agrees that schools can reopen on a regional basis, as long as they maintain public health measures and build on strategies already in place. works to limit the spread.

Ford’s letter raised specific concerns about the reopening of schools, including the growing presence of the B.1.617 COVID-19 variant, which was first discovered in India.

He said his government had presented modeling suggesting that the number of daily cases could reach between 2,000 and 4,000 by the end of July if schools were fully reopened.

In its response today, the Scientific Table acknowledged that the variant “presents a significant unknown” and that the province should continue to administer the first doses of vaccine and accelerate the second doses for those most vulnerable to COVID-19 for fight against the spread of the virus. The group also said other sectors of the economy are expected to remain closed until they are reopened by the provincial cadre.

Looking ahead to September, the science table said the government should work over the summer to ensure schools are safe and ready for returning students.

“Summer will be a great time to make the entire school system even safer by continuing to improve ventilation in school buildings and immunizing students,” the table says.

The group also noted that the province should start developing and investing in recovery plans now to address long-term mental health, health and education issues that have arisen during the shutdowns. schools linked to COVID-19.

An epidemiologist responded to the science table’s advice on Twitter on Saturday morning and said he disagreed with their advice.

“We have the end of the pandemic within reach in Ontario. We can get away with this bet, or not. In my opinion, the game on increasing intensive care admissions and accelerated replacement of the b1617 strain: it’s not worth it, ”wrote Dr. David Fisman, epidemiologist at the Dalla Lana School of Public Health from UofT on Twitter.

Meanwhile, medical officers of health in Toronto, Peel Region and York Region have expressed support for resuming in-person learning.

In a letter to the Prime Minister on Friday, Toronto Medical Officer of Health Dr. Eileen de Villa said she would prefer the return of in-person learning before the other COVID-19 restrictions are lifted.

The province’s four largest education sector unions also released a statement on Friday and said educators have always “supported the safe regional reopening of schools,” but believe the decision to reopen should be left to doctors. local hygienists.

Ford has not said when he will release his decision to reopen the schools.

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