President of McMaster Children’s Hospital calls for ‘immediate’ return to classrooms

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Published May 27, 2021 at 7:50 am

The president of Hamilton’s McMaster Children’s Hospital (MCH) is calling for the immediate reopening of schools for in-person learning.

In a statement issued Wednesday (May 26), Bruce Squires, who is also Chair of the Board of Directors of Children’s Healthcare Canada, said it is ‘imperative’ that students return to physical classrooms for the rest of the school year.

“There is overwhelming consensus on this matter from all of Ontario’s pediatric health professional associations, as well as the Ontario Council of Medical Officers of Health, who feel it is imperative that children have immediate access to in-person instruction,” he said in the statement.

“Additionally, vaccination rates are steadily on the rise across the province and there are no foreseeable delays in the vaccine supply chain.

“This, coupled with the decrease of infection rates of COVID-19, further reinforces that the time for action is now.”

Squires notes that throughout the pandemic, MCH has seen an increase in the number of children in crisis and that continued delay in reopening schools will only make matters worse.

“School is not out for summer and there is plenty of time for students to get back in the classroom for the rest of this school year,” he said.

“The negative health consequences for kids from any further delay is only compounding.”

Dr. David Williams, Ontario’s Chief Medical officer of Health, said earlier this week he would like to see students return to their classrooms before the province starts reopening in mid-June.

He made the comments on the same day as a group of researchers studying the effects of the pandemic on children warned of “a generational catastrophe.”

Williams said most public health units in the province support the reopening of schools, which have been shut to in-person learning since early- to mid-April.

“My position has been always, like our public health measures table and our medical officers of health, that feel that schools should be the last to close and the first to open,” Williams told a news conference.

“Ideally, I’d like the schools open before we enter Step 1 of our exit strategy.”

Cases of COVID-19 continue to fall in the third wave of the pandemic while Ontario remains under a stay-at-home order. Vaccinations continue to surge with more than 8.2 million people receiving their first shot.

Williams said the situation is different now compared to when the province shuttered schools in early April.

He said he’d also be open to a regional approach to allow some school boards to return to in-person class sooner than others.

The province’s decision on schools is expected soon.

— with a file from The Canadian Press

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