Editorial Cartoon by Graeme MacKay, The Hamilton Spectator – Thursday May 27, 2021
Ford solicits advice on reopening Ontario schools
Premier Doug Ford took the unusual step of publicly soliciting advice from medical experts, children’s hospitals and health organizations on how Ontario could go about reopening schools before the end of the academic year next month.
In a letter addressed to 55 different groups and people, Ford reiterated that his government has struggled to find consensus on school reopenings, and that it needs input before moving forward with a decision.
Why Ford waited until May 27, and gave the recipients until 5 p.m. Friday to answer, is unclear.
“In recent weeks, there has been a wide range of advice and commentary around the reopening of schools in Ontario,” Ford said in the letter.
“There is consensus in some quarters on how, when and whether schools should reopen, and diverse and conflicting views in others.”
He added that new modelling expected in the coming days will show that, if schools were to reopen, there could be between 2,000 and 4,000 more cases of COVID-19 by the end of July compared to if they remain closed.
Ford went on to once again express his concerns about virus variants of concern, particularly the variant first identified in India, and its impact on children. He also pointed to emerging evidence that suggests COVID-19 vaccines are potentially less effective against the variant found in India.
According to Ford, only 41 per cent of teachers and education workers have received a first dose of vaccine, compared to about 62 per cent of Ontario adults in the general population.
“Ultimately, this is our government’s decision, but in light of the foregoing, and the diversity of perspectives on the safety of reopening schools, I am asking for your views on a number of issues,” Ford said.
Earlier this week, Ontario’s chief medical officer of health — who is also listed as a recipient of Ford’s letter — said he would like to see students back in class before the province begins its formal reopening process in mid-June.
Dr. David Williams said most public health units in the province support the reopening of schools, which have been shut to in-person learning since early 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 on Tuesday. It was the same day that a group of researchers studying how the pandemic has affected children warned of a “generational catastrophe.” (CBC)