KAWARTHA LAKES-The Province of Ontario announced today they are closing schools after the April Break.
This move comes one day after Minister Lecce told parents schools would not be closing. In the City of Kawartha Lakes there is two cases of Coronavirus in local schools.
“Sharply rising community rates have created a crisis in healthcare.” Lecce said today. “Case counts are up province-wide.”
Premier Ford and Lecce both said they were taking direction from the Medical Officer of Health.
“We are seeing a rapidly deteriorating situation with a record number of COVID cases and hospital admissions threatening to overwhelm our health care system,” said Premier Ford. “As I have always said we will do whatever it takes to ensure everyone stays safe. By keeping kids home longer after spring break we will limit community transmission, take pressure off our hospitals and allow more time to rollout our COVID-19 vaccine plan.”
More than 300 doctors wrote a letter to the government at the end of March urging them to keep schools open. The letter stresses that the “safe reopening of all schools in Ontario is essential” even before community restrictions are lifted.
Toronto’s Hospital for Sick Children also warned about the harms of prolonged school closures and that in-person learning should be the “last to close and the first to open.”
Some doctors say schools should be considered an essential service and even with a new wave of COVID-19. Medical experts from across the country urged authorities to keep students in the classroom.
“I don’t even think it should be a debate,” Dr. Kwadwo Kyeremanteng, an intensive and palliative care physician in Ottawa, said in an interview with the Toronto Sun news.
“Our kids need to be at school.” he said.
Kyeremanteng believes schools are too important to close, the risk of transmission there has proven to be low, and if services such as take-out food and Amazon delivery can be protected, so can in-person learning.
“I would approach it as if it’s an essential service,” Kyeremanteng told the Sun.
Cases of Coronavirus have continued to rise. More than 4,400 cases were reported today. That’s up from approximately 2,500 a few weeks ago. The mortality rate though has declined sharply. In January the 7 day average number of deaths in Canada was 157 per day. Today the average number of deaths over 7 days is 34 per day.
Dr. Jennifer Grant, a Vancouver-based infectious disease specialist, says it may even be safer with kids in class, where they’re made to follow public health guidelines and cases of COVID-19, if they do occur, are easier to trace and isolate according to CBC.
“If the aim is to stop community spread, it’s entirely possible that keeping schools open is the safest approach,” she said in an interview with CBC.
“Children are supervised, they’re kept in individual cohorts, parents don’t have to rely on informal arrangements. Losing control over that organizational factor could conceivably make things worse.”
Steven Lecce told reporters today the decision was made to protect the kids however many experts believe the closures are more harmful to kids.
In terms of the harms to kids, the authors of the letter to the government say that the Kids Help Phone went from 1.9 million calls in 2019 to 4 million in 2020. McMaster Children’s Hospital reports the number of youth admitted following suicide attempts have tripled during the pandemic and that those admitted for substance abuse has doubled; SickKids reports that youth admitting for eating disorders has increased to unprecedented levels according to the letter.
“School closures negatively impact the physical and mental health of children as well as their social development,” the letter states.
“Children can safely attend in-person learning and this is the best option for their physical and mental health as well as their social development.”
The hundreds of signatories include paediatricians, emergency doctors, infectious diseases specialists and other health professionals from Ontario and across Canada.
Dr. Alanna Golden, one of the lead authors of the letter, says it’s important for people to advocate for kids.
In early February, a similar letter was sent to politicians calling on them to re-open schools across Canada and keep them open. That letter had just over 100 signatures.
There’s no word on when or if schools will re-open.
Remote learning will begin on Monday.
Child care for non-school aged children will remain open, before and after school programs will be closed and free emergency child care for the school-aged children of eligible health care and frontline workers will be provided according to the province.