Dr. Jim Chirico says he is in full support of a recent recommendation by the Ontario Science Table which recommends a school year with the return of extracurriculars, along with loosening cohort, mask wearing and social distancing rules where the risk is low.
"The physical, emotional, and developmental health of children and youth has been deeply impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic and restrictions placed on schools,” the experts write in a brief published Monday.
"School closures, or transition to an online learning model, should not be used as a public health measure for pandemic control."
The Science Table noted that there is "increasing evidence" that closing schools and cancelling extracurriculars has had negative impacts on kids’ physical and mental health, they write. Overall, Ontario has had the longest interruption to in-person classes in Canada.
Chirico, the Chief Medical Officer with the North Bay Parry Sound District Health Unit, agrees and says he has taken that stance since the beginning of the pandemic.
"We have worked very hard and our school boards in the district have done a phenomenal job in partnership and putting things in place that so far we have seen a great response to everything we have asked to be done," Chirico said during Thursday's online media conference.
"We have not had an outbreak in a school to date and we continue to work with the schools to ensure we get as many people vaccinated - children and staff - and all the cleaning and disinfecting protocols are in place, the ventilation is adequate and masking and physical distancing when appropriate.
"All those things are being followed so I do agree with the science table that it is very important and we also note that we have to assess the risk at the time - assessing whether there is low, moderate, or high risk within the community and is something we can do something about.
"If we are seeing very high number of cases and high hospitalizations and or deaths, that is something we certainly have to consider. But we can do something by following the public health measures by getting people vaccinated. That is going to reduce the risk to our children. "