“This is in view of the harms that we’re seeing,” he said. “We’re seeing eating disorders on the rise, we see anxiety and depression and this is much more pronounced in the community than what we’re seeing in hospitals.”
Speaking on Newstalk 580 CFRA, Dr. Peter Juni said the science table has a consensus on reopening schools.
Juni said closing schools was often a first step to help control the pandemic, but he says that practice cannot continue.
“It’s just really positive and important that we don’t do that anymore,” he said.
“We need to acknowledge that it will be a bumpy road. We’re in the middle of a crisis and this will not be undisrupted, regular school experience, but I think it’s important that we try it now,” he said.
However, he cautions that it’s not going to be easy.
In a letter to families Friday, the Ottawa-Carleton District School Board warned of the possibility of sudden school closures due to staffing shortages. The Ottawa Student Transportation Authority also cautioned that school buses could be cancelled if drivers get sick.
“We will make every effort to keep classes and schools open, but if we cannot operate safely, a class or school may have to pivot to remote learning until we can arrange for appropriate coverage,” the school board said. “If this happens, we will make every effort to advise parents the night before. We encourage parents to have contingency plans in place and to monitor your email for updates.”
Juni stressed that one of the most important steps families can take is vaccination.
“We all can protect our children and ourselves by getting vaccinated and having them vaccinated,” he said. “Vaccines continue to help tremendously against serious outcomes and three doses particularly. Get your third dose if you’re a parent because your kid could bring something home and you don’t want to end up in a hospital yourself.”
He said he is disappointed to see the rate of vaccination among children aged 5 to 11 has yet to surpass 50 per cent provincewide.
“That’s really just a missed opportunity. We need to get better at that,” he said.
In Ottawa, 65 per cent of children 5 to 11 have one dose. ‘Carefully optimistic’ that plateau is near
He says hospital occupancy is still rising, but it is not rising as steeply as before, and he’s happy to see many people are staying home as much as possible.
“People, even before New Year’s Eve, started to do the right thing, work from home, stayed home more, et cetera. This all helps tremendously. That makes me the most optimistic,” he said. “But after school reopening, we need to be patient. Remember, when we do a step, we need about two weeks or so to understand what this step actually did because, of course, it will contribute to transmission as well.”
“I’m carefully optimistic that we will reach, relatively soon, a plateau with our hospital occupancy,” he said. “It doesn’t mean it’s not challenging, it will be extremely challenging, but this points towards the fact that we may have stabilized case numbers. Now, we just need to consider schools as what they are, the first step of reopening.”
Juni said he is cautiously optimistic that Ontario is approaching a plateau in terms of Omicron, but it’s still going to be a difficult winter.
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