In-Person Learning At-Risk: Public Health Ontario

TORONTO — On Friday, while Doug Ford and his Health Minister ignored Ontario Liberal Leader Steven Del Duca’s calls for “more science and less silence” from provincial government officials, Public Health Ontario quietly issued the following dramatic warning:

“With expected increased infections among children associated with increased transmissibility of BA.2, removal of public health measures, and limited vaccine eligibility and two-dose coverage in children less than 12 years, the number of children with severe disease is likely to increase. This may impact pediatric hospital and intensive care unit (ICU) capacity, and also lead to further disruption to in-person learning in Ontario.

Neither the Premier, Health Minister nor Chief Medical Officer of Health were available to comment on Public Health Ontario’s warning.

On Friday, Ministry of Education data showed:

  • 15 per cent of Ontario kids and teachers were absent from school last week (1-in-7)
  • 235 Ontario schools had more than 25 per cent of their students and/or teachers absent last Thursday, the last day data was available for (1-in-4)

This weekend, a Toronto Star investigation found that the Ford Conservatives denied public schools rapid tests last September while at the same time shipping 175,000 free rapid tests to private schools. Only 34 per cent of children aged 5-11 have received 2 doses of the vaccine.

“It is time to bring back smart mask policies in schools and PCR tests in the community. The decision to remove them is now threatening in-school learning. Ontario parents, students and teachers have had enough of Zoom classes. It’s time for responsible action to ensure schools stay open,” said Etobicoke-Lakeshore Liberal candidate Lee Fairclough and recent Hospital President.

“I’ve seen first hand the impact of absences among our nursing, medical and hospital staff on the ability to respond to more patients with COVID and delay in care in Ontario’s hospitals and long-term care homes. We can’t afford to do this again,” Fairclough added.

Ontario Liberals are repeating Steven Del Duca’s call for mask mandates in essential indoor settings such as schools, pharmacies, and grocery stores. We are also calling on Doug Ford’s Conservatives not to repeat the mistake they made when they prematurely removed masks from schools by going ahead with their plan to end mask requirements in hospitals, long-term care facilities and on transit later on April 27th.

On Sunday, Doris Grinspun, the head of the Registered Nurses’ Association of Ontario, joined the call for the Ford government to abandon its plan to end all masking mandates on April 27.

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