Dr. De Villa responds to Ford’s letter regarding reopening schools

Ecole Elsie Mac Gill Public School 3

Local health and education officials would like to see students return to the classroom before the end of the academic year

"Individual public health units need to weigh in on the decision of whether or not they feel that their public health unit can safely accommodate and manage and prevent the cases that may arise with school reopening", he said in an interview Friday.

In the letter Ford says that his government understands "the mental health, academic and other challenges some students have faced with at-home learning, particularly those from low-income, racialized and high needs neighbourhoods".

The province's top doctor said Tuesday that he'd like to see schools reopen as early as next week in some regions.

"We've reopened golf courses, we've reopened basketball courts, we've reopened tennis courts - Premier Ford, now is the time to reopen schools", said Watson.

Ontario reported 1,095 new cases of COVID-19 Wednesday and 23 more deaths linked to the virus.

But at the same time he said that his government is expecting new modelling this week which will suggest that a return to the classroom could result in daily case counts rising to between 2,000 and 4,000 a day by the end of July.

The OPSBA says that should a decision be made to reopen schools, "it is essential that school boards be provided with sufficient notice to enable a smooth transition back to in-person learning". "If deemed safe, a return to in-person learning would end school on a positive note for a year that saw many interruptions". "There is consensus in some quarters on how, when and whether schools should reopen, and diverse and conflicting views in others", said Ford.

The letter also included some data for consideration, including a study from Public Health England that suggested a single dose of Pfizer or AstraZeneca is 33% effective against the Indian variant, which is also on the rise in Ontario.

Many of those stakeholders Ford has appealed to have been increasingly vocal about both the lack of safety measures at schools and the dangers of keeping children home any longer.

The medical officers in Toronto and Peel Region said, however, that they were still watching to see if COVID-19 cases dropped further.

Ottawa's medical officer of health is hoping students return to the classroom at schools across the city next week after six weeks of online learning.

"What makes all this new information concerning is that ... only 41 per cent of teachers and education workers are vaccinated compared to 62 per cent of the general adult population in Ontario", Ford wrote.

The Dufferin-Peel Catholic District School Board also indicated a few days of preparation would be needed to resume in-person learning.

He cites the modelling released last week by Dr. Steini Brown, the head of the Ontario Science Table, saying that if schools resume, cases could increase by between 6% and 11%.

Other countries are warning mutations including the B.1.617 variant45 are putting children at much greater risk and are shutting schools down.

Following the announcement of the plan Ontarians, including health experts, took to social media to share their thoughts on this proposed "second dose summer".

A spokeswoman for Education Minister Stephen Lecce said safety is a priority, but did not indicate the status of any immediate plans to reopen schools.

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