Toronto Public Health is establishing a team of more than 70 nurses and enhanced screening protocols for when students return to class in September.
On Monday, Mayor John Tory said that the 70 nurses include some experienced nurses and some newly recruited nurses to provide education and training sessions to school staff, parents and caregivers to promote infection prevention and control measures, and other public health advice to limit virus spread.
The news comes following the provincial announcement last week from Ontario’s chief medical officer of Health notifying public health departments across Ontario that they could begin recruitment to provide nursing support to schools.
“As parents get ready to send their kids back to school, our city is working with the school boards and the Government of Ontario to do everything possible to reassure parents and to create a safe and healthy environment at schools across the city,” Tory said.
“Having greater public health resources available in schools will help us protect the progress we have made thus far while keeping children safe. This will be especially important as we introduce fall recreation programming and after-school care in September. I want to thank staff for developing these programs in a timely manner while putting the health and safety of kids and parents at the forefront.”
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According to the City, public health teams will also be providing mental health and well-being support in school settings, along with” rapid-response outbreak investigation, case management and support the planning process for testing if a COVID-19 case is detected in a school setting.”
Board of Health Chair, Joe Cressy, echoed Tory’s sentiments adding that the importance of physical distancing in the classroom is a top priority.
Therefore, City staff from a number of departments will be working with the Toronto District School Board (TDSB) and the Toronto Catholic District School Board (TCDSB) to identify city real estate and spaces to support physical distancing needs.
The City has also confirmed that all parks will be open to schools and available for use without a permit.
Additionally, Toronto Public Health is establishing a team for outbreak investigations, case management, and testing for if a COVID-19 case is detected in a school setting.
“These proactive and responsible actions will help to reduce transmission in schools and ensure an effective response. The reality is that as schools and more child care centres reopen, the risk of exposure and transmission will inevitably increase,” Cressy said in a written statement.
“When it comes to our classrooms and our kids, safety must be our top priority.”
On Monday, the TDSB’s return to school plan was rejected by the Ontario government as the shorter days for teachers’ prep time was an action the province deemed to limit students time in the classroom.