Who decided that Ontario schools should remain closed? The government won’t say, but doctors are calling on Ford to reconsider

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There’s a simple question the Ontario government won’t answer about its decision to keep schools closed while patios and nonessential retail stores open: Who was this idea?

Normally, the government says it makes decisions about COVID-19 restrictions based on recommendations from Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. David Williams. When Premier Doug Ford announced in April that schools would be closed, for example, he said the decision was made in consultation with the chief medical officer. Williams attended that press conference and answered questions.

But when Ford announced that schools would remain closed for the rest of the year, Williams wasn’t around. And about a week ago, when the doctor was asked about the possibility of reopening schools, He said what he prefers Schools had to open before businesses.

“As for the decision, when that is, it’s really … a decision that has to be taken at the cabinet level,” he told reporters.

When CBC News sent an email to spokespersons for Education Secretary Stephen Lecce and the Department of Health, which deals with media questions for Williams, and asked if the decision was based on a doctor’s advice, no one responded.

Dr. David Williams, Ontario’s chief medical officer, and Premier Doug Ford trade on the podium during a press conference at the Ontario Legislature in Toronto on November 25, 2020. (Chris Young/The Canadian Press)

While it’s unclear who made the call, the decision was certainly controversial – with even top experts splitting – and will mean students in Ontario, who have already been out of school longer than any other student in the country by mid-May, will miss the More study time.

Doctors ask Ford to reconsider

Wednesday, message Signed by more than 400 doctors It was sent to the Ontario government to demand a review of information that informed the decision to keep schools closed, as well as guarantees that students enrolled in the summer school will be able to attend in person and that all students will be able to attend in-person classes in September.

Doctors said that When Ford asked health experts For advice on what to do about schools on May 27, most schools supported to reopen.

“I have chosen to ignore the answers I have received and have instead taken a stand in support of the industry,” the letter reads.

“We’ve seen your government reconsider previous decisions in its pandemic response plan. It’s never too late to take a stand to support Ontario’s children and youth and begin the recovery process.”

Watch | The doctor says choosing Ontario for schools is “absolutely not” the right choice:

Dr. Barry Bucks, from the University of Toronto’s Dalla Lana School of Public Health, says Ontario Premier Doug Ford’s decision to keep schools closed is “unequivocally wrong.” 2:15

Other public health experts said they felt differently, such as Dr. Lawrence Luo, Peel District Medical Officer of Health. In a TV interview, he said he understood the prime minister’s decision due to the increasing number of cases attributed to the delta variant, also known as B.1.617, which was first identified in India.

Even the Ontario COVID-19 Scientific Advisory Table, the group of public health experts that publishes modeling and makes recommendations to the government, has not reached consensus.

science table official positionCo-signed with other organizations including SickKids and Children’s Mental Health Ontario, schools were to reopen in areas that Dr. Williams and local authorities believed were safe. But member David Fisman retracted that recommendation and wrote on Twitter It agrees with Ford.

“This was the first time David Fisman and I had disagreed on an issue,” Dr. Peter Johnny, Scientific Director of The Table, told CBC News in an interview.

“It’s not primarily white or black. I can totally understand where David is coming from.”

The issue of school closures is not black and white, says Dr. Peter Johnny, director of the COVID-19 Scientific Advisory Schedule for Ontario. (CBC)

Johnny said the polarization among people who think schools are either overtly safe or overtly unsafe “has not helped the situation and basically hasn’t helped our children.”

Schools are a risk, he said, but the vast majority at the science table believe the risks can be mitigated. They also believed that the benefits to children, both mentally and socially, outweighed this risk.

On Monday, published schedule A New paper on the widespread effects of school closures, which found that there was lower reporting of suspected abuse and neglect of children because school staff are the group most likely to report these concerns. The group also highlighted on Twitter that COVID-19-related school closures have lasted longer in Ontario than in any other province or territory, with a total of 20 weeks by mid-May.

Schools are open in British Columbia

In British Columbia, schools have been open since September.

British Columbia Education Minister Jennifer Whiteside said her government saw lockdowns in 2020 caused increased stress, loneliness, isolation and mental health problems for students and made it a priority to avoid it this year.

“Experience has shown that it is really important to keep schools open,” she said in an interview with CBC News.

The government opened a trial for a few weeks last June. It also created a steering committee that included public health experts from the British Columbia Center for Disease Control, and unions representing teachers and other education workers, Parents and Managers Associations, First Nations and Mutual Groups and the Workplace Safety Agency. That committee has met once or twice a week since last summer to develop safety plans for schools, Whiteside said.

British Columbia’s education minister, Jennifer Whiteside, said the loneliness, isolation and stress students were experiencing during the lockdown in the spring of 2020 made it a priority to keep schools open during this school year. (Bill Bury/CBC)

“It was really an effort … all of us are against COVID,” the minister said.

“We have placed our trust in our public health officials to lead a science-based, evidence-based approach and … I believe it has been an essential part of our success thus far.”

“There’s no comparison,” says Ford.

When Ford announced the extended school closure, he was asked why Ontario can’t open schools as other provinces have done.

“There is no comparison … we are 15 million people,” he said.

The premier noted that Quebec is the second largest province with a population of 8.5 million. That district closed some schools and then reopened them on a district-by-district basis throughout the spring.

Ford also incorrectly stated that science table modeling showed that opening schools would lead to “thousands and thousands” of new cases.

modeling Released May 20 He said school openings would be accompanied by a 6 to 11 percent rise in new cases. At the time of Ford’s announcement, the seven-day average of new daily cases in Ontario was 978.

“Yeah, there was a slight increase in the number of cases when we designed that, but we’re going to be talking about something like maybe 50 more cases a day,” Johnny said, “We’ll be able to control that.”



More to track …
Bulletin Observer Health

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