School closures should be "last resort" to prevent COVID-19 spread: SickKids

Jan 21 2021, 11:11 am

An updated report from SickKids says school closures should be “a last resort” to stop the spread of COVID-19 due to the negative impact it has on children.

The document was updated on Thursday, noting, “in our view, a daily in-person school model is best as it allows for consistency, stability and equity regardless of the region in which children live.”

On Wednesday, Education Minister Stephen Lecce announced that seven school boards would reopen for in-class learning on January 25. However, in the hotspots, schools remain closed until February 10, but this data can change depending on review from the Chief Medical Officer of Health.

SickKids is also on Ontario’s advisory committee for best practices during the pandemic.

The report outlines that transmission rates of the virus are quite low in a school setting.

“School closures for in-person instruction should be a last resort for pandemic control (last to close and first to open), and delay in reopening schools for in-person learning must be as time-limited as possible,” the document said.

“Additional delays will inevitably further exacerbate the harms to children and the inequities caused by school closures. Emphasis needs to be placed on reducing community transmission and strengthening the recommended school mitigation measures.”

According to SickKids, public health measures like lockdowns, school closures, Stay at Home orders, and self-isolation have “significant adverse health and welfare consequences for children and youth.”

These consequences include decreased vaccination coverage, delayed diagnosis and care for non-COVID-19 related medical conditions, and adverse impact on their physical health as well as social development and mental health.

And when children are back in school, SickKids is advising that students stay within cohorts and wear masks, instead of physical distancing, as lack of interaction can have a negative impact on emotional and developmental wellbeing.

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