NWHU MOH says area schools can safely reopen if Provincial Government allows
Tim Brody - Editor
The Northwestern Health Unit (NWHU) says schools in its catchment area can safely reopen for the remainder of the school year, if the Provincial Government decides to allow schools to reopen.
Ontario Premier Doug Ford wrote a letter to medical experts, health units and teachers unions last week asking for their opinions on reopening schools for the remainder this school year.
“We have made the recommendation to the Chief Medical Officer of Health that schools in Northwestern Health Unit catchment area can be reopened this school year, so starting as early as next week if they felt it was appropriate,” shared NWHU Medical Officer of Health Dr. Kit Young Hoon.
She said there are many things to consider in the decision to reopen schools, “There is the risk of COVID-19 that needs to be considered and whether it can spread within a school... and the risk level in a community. It’s also important to think about the risks of keeping schools closed and what that poses for children, so it is recognized that school closures has a number of negative health issues, so it decreases physical activity, generally seems to decrease nutrition for students, as well it has some mental health effects in the sense of increased behaviours that can indicate anxiety or depression.”
Dr. Young Hoon stated, “We have messaged up to the province repeatedly over the past few weeks that our schools in our catchment area can reopen and at this point, considering our case numbers and our incidence rates across the communities, that schools can open up. Also considering that schools here have been following public health measures very well and we’ve seen very little transmission in the school setting is yet another reason that schools can open.”
If schools do open for the remainder of this school year, Dr. Young Hoon said NWHU is planning to conduct vaccination clinics in area high schools in June.
Students eligible to receive a COVID-19 vaccination, those aged 12 to 17, will not require parent’s permission should they choose to get vaccinated, according to Dr. Young Hoon.
On May 28, the Provincial Government announced that Ontario had reached a key milestone in its fight against COVID-19, having achieved its target to administer first doses to 65 per cent of Ontarians 18 and over ahead of schedule. The province further announced, “Ontario is also preparing to roll out the eligibility for accelerated second dose appointments starting with individuals aged 80 and over, beginning on May 31, 2021. If there is sufficient vaccine supply, it is anticipated that the majority of Ontario residents who choose to receive the vaccine will be able to be fully vaccinated by the end of summer.”
As of May 31, 50,842 COVID-19 vaccine doses had been administered in the NWHU’s catchment area, bringing NWHU’s percentage of vaccine first doses administered to persons 12 and over to a total of 63 per cent.
The Sioux Lookout Health Hub percentage of people 12 and over who had received a first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine (not including communities vaccinated by Operation Remote Immunity) was listed at 53.1 per cent.
Further information on booking vaccinations, eligibility and NWHU-led COVID-19 clinics can be found at https://www.nwhu.on.ca/covid19/Pages/booking-COVID19-vaccine-appointment.aspx.
As of May 31, NWHU was reporting 12 active COVID-19 cases in its catchment area: nine in the Kenora Health Hub, two in the Sioux Lookout Health Hub and one case in the Atikokan Health Hub.