The Ottawa medical officer of health says she supports reopening schools this week, even as the number of COVID-19 cases, driven by the Omicron variant, continues to rise.
But Dr Vera Etches says she is also in talks with the Ontario government over the “urgent need to suspend other activities to keep schools the priority.”
At the end of last week, the province announced that it was pushing back the start date of the return to school after vacation by two days to Wednesday.
“While I am awaiting further advice from the province on the reopening of schools and measures to limit transmission in the community, I currently support the return of schools,” Etches wrote in a report. statement posted on Ottawa Public Health website on Sunday.
“I evaluated the evidence and recommendations from my colleagues in the health sector that being in school is best for children, youth, families and the health of our community by general.
Schools are not driving the pandemic: Etches
Throughout the pandemic, Etches has been a strong advocate for schools to be the last to close and the first to reopen.
In Sunday’s statement, she wrote that the data suggests that schools are not a key driver of the pandemic and that in December, rates of COVID-19 in Ottawa rose much faster in the community at large than in schools.
Additionally, COVID-19 has often been introduced into educational settings from sports or social activities outside of school, she said, which is why she would like the province to impose further restrictions. rather than delaying the reopening of schools.
“Some have suggested keeping schools closed until all children and young people are fully immunized,” she said.
“Unfortunately, with a [eight]-week interval between doses and 61 [per cent] of children aged 5 to 11 vaccinated with just one dose at that time, that delay would mean too many absences from school causing known harm. “
In his letter, Etches also pointed out that closing schools could lead to an increase in indoor gatherings, as parents find ways to cope without the layers of protection that are in place in classrooms to slow down the process. spread of the virus.
Children who learn at home also create stress for parents and guardians and problems for children’s educational and social development, as well as for mental health, she said.
Instead of closing schools, Etches recommends that students limit their contact and high-risk activities, stay home if they are sick or someone in their household is sick, and that all students continue. to wear masks whenever possible, including kindergartens.
“At the population level, my current recommendation is that children and youth deserve the health benefits of opening schools next week. Schools provide students with essential supports for learning and social development.” , she said.
“This is not a decision I take lightly. It is supported by our partners in children’s health care across the province.”