Premier Ford promises to make an announcement in the next day or two but the Ontario Science Table has told the Premier that it is safe to reopen schools on a regional basis, but did not specify which regions.
Low Short-Term Impact
Last week Dr. Steini Brown who has been providing the province with COVID modeling information, suggested re-opening schools could result in an increase in new COVID cases of approximately 11 percent. In their letter to the Premier the science table said, “science Table modelling suggests that the total increase in cases that would result from re-opening schools is small. Most public health units believe that they can mitigate and manage those increases in their communities.”
Reopen Schools Regionally and Manage the Risks
The Science Table essentially threw the issue back to local decision makers. “Schools can re-open safely on a regional basis, on the advice of the Chief Medical Officer of Health, the local Medical Officers of Health, School Districts and health system partners. Schools that re-open should maintain their public health measures vigorously and build on the strategies they have already deployed to limit spread. Parents will also play an important role in limiting spread by recognizing that a school re-opening does not signify any other changes to the Stay-at-Home order, as long as it remains in place. In making this recommendation, we assume that the province’s re-opening framework will continue as announced, and that other sectors will stay closed until the re-opening framework opens them.”
Health Measures must be maintained
Even as we re-open schools, we must do all that we can to reduce the transmission of the virus outside of schools. The B.1.617.2 variant of concern presents a significant unknown. To address that uncertainty, Ontario should ensure access to first doses for all eligible Ontarians and accelerate second doses for those most vulnerable to COVID, while keeping other sectors closed until they are re-opened by the framework. We must keep case numbers low enough during the next three months to ensure a return to consistent, in-person schooling in September.
The science table is made up of:
Ontario COVID-19 Science Advisory Table, the Children’s Hospital of Eastern Ontario (CHEO) – Ottawa Children’s Treatment Centre, the Hospital for Sick Children (SickKids), Children’s Mental Health Ontario, the McMaster Children’s Hospital, the Holland Bloorview Kids Rehabilitation Hospital, Children’s Hospital – London Health Sciences Centre (LHSC), the Ontario Medical Association, Empowered Kids Ontario, the Pediatricians Alliance of Ontario, and the Council of Ontario Medical Officers of Health (on behalf of all Medical Officers of Health).
The release noted that David Fisman, Anne Hayes, Michael Hillmer, Fiona Kouyoumdjian, and David McKeown of the Ontario COVID-19 Science Advisory Table recused themselves from the response to the Premier of Ontario. No reason for the recusal was provided.