The new council comes in response to Premier Doug Ford’s request to know whether or not the province should reopen schools as cases of the virus tend to decline.
He defended the decision on Friday, saying he was seeking general consensus on the issue before making a decision.
COVID-19: Doug Ford defends against reopening Ontario schools, trying to get general ‘consensus’
Ontario students switched to distance learning in mid-April.
The table indicated that some areas may reopen based on advice from local medical officers of health and continued compliance with public health measures.
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Ronald Cohn, president and CEO of SickKids Hospital in Toronto, told Global News that “schools really play a unique role in our society and should not be lumped together with other sectors when we are considering plans. reopening. “
Cohn called schools “essential work for Ontario’s children” and said it was time to take action behind the words “schools should be the first to open and the last to close”.
READ MORE: COVID-19: Doug Ford writes letter asking doctors and experts if Ontario schools should reopen
He said the hospital had held talks with the scientific board and members of the Children’s Health Coalition and they all supported the regional reopening approach.
However, some oppose the reopening of schools, including Brooks Fallis, an intensive care physician in the Peel region and former medical director of intensive care at William Osler.
Fallis told Global News that Ontario is in good shape right now, but the number of cases and intensive care remains high.
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He said he advocates keeping children in line, but giving them more time outdoors and “really taking advantage of the great weather outdoors for the mental health benefits.”
READ MORE: COVID-19: Schools to remain closed as Ontario unveils plan to reopen
Fallis said if schools were to reopen it certainly should be a regional approach, but Toronto, Peel and most of the GTA should not reopen.
“These areas have been shown to contain hot spot regions where COVID takes off very easily …” he said, adding, “Why take the bet when you are in such a good position, when at the end of the day? in the summer we can really be in a good position to open safely in September.
Fallis said the province should take the summer to work out a plan to safely reopen for September, which should include better ventilation and smaller classrooms.
Parents, critics and experts in Ontario have called for resuming in-person learning because of the potential for adverse effects on students in regards to their mental health.
The table said the reopening would allow schools to re-establish contact with teachers and peers.
Cohn echoed the sentiment, saying the shutdown of in-person learning has taken a toll on all children, but especially those living in “vulnerable conditions.”
He said the hospital was seeing children in “severe distress” indicating an increase in the number of those suffering from anxiety, depression, suicidal thoughts and eating disorders as a few examples.
“There are countless other kids who are languishing,” Cohn said.
Ford defends continued closure of Ontario schools after letter to doctors and experts
The science table recently said that reopening schools could cause COVID-19 case rates to rise between 6 and 11 percent. However, he said on Saturday that most public health units believed the increase would be “manageable.”
Cohn added that with the acceleration of the vaccine rollout in Ontario, in addition to the already “robust” testing and screening taking place in schools, he truly believes they can safely reopen based on the regional approach.
“I admit it’s only a few weeks, but every day in a child’s life matters.”
–With files from Matthew Bingley and The Canadian Press
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