'Stay the course': Children's health group says Ontario measures working to keep schools open

WATCH ABOVE: Ontario’s chief medical officer of health says he’ll be presenting recommendations to the province next week, which will lay out the path to further loosen restrictions.

A group of children’s health organizations says Ontario’s measures aimed at limiting the spread of COVID-19 are working to keep schools open and urges the government to take a “cautious approach” in further reopening.

The Children’s Health Coalition said in a statement Friday that since schools reopened in September, provincial COVID-19 case rates have been trending within the best-case scenario under provincial modelling.

The statement said analysis of Public Health Ontario data suggests that measures aimed at limiting virus spread, including vaccinations, masking, and distancing “have been successful,” resulting in less than 0.19 per cent of the province’s school-aged population testing positive between Sept. 5 and Oct. 2.

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That amounts to 3,742 cases out of around two million school-aged individuals. The group said there have been an average of two to three cases per school outbreak.

The group also noted that between Sept. 19 and Oct. 2, more than 70 per cent of cases among youth aged 6 to 17 have been traced to sources other than school outbreaks.

“While few children become seriously ill with COVID-19, one death is a tragedy,” the statement said.

“Protecting children in all settings – including schools – is critical. Minimizing community spread will help protect children in all settings…

“Children and youth must be a priority in the pandemic recovery – for the sake of their future and the sake of our province’s future.

“We must stay the course in our schools, while always looking ahead and acting swiftly to prioritize the needs of children and youth.”

The group said the province must protect “the eco-system” of those aged 5 to 11 as that age group awaits eligibility for a COVID-19 vaccine.

The statement comes as the Ontario government is expected to announce plans to exit Step 3 of its COVID-19 reopening plan late next week.

A source, not authorized to speak publicly, said the first phase of the plan will determine when capacity limits can be lifted for remaining venues, such as restaurants, that are already under a proof-of-vaccination policy.

Ontario chief medical officer of health Dr. Kieran Moore was asked Thursday about possibly lifting further restrictions.

“We are going to take a slow and steady approach to the removal of any public health measures over time, based on the data at hand,” he said in part.

He said health officials, in partnership with the government, are providing advice on a schedule to further lift public health measures. He said that schedule will be provided to the government next week.

— With files from Gabby Rodrigues and Matthew Bingley

© 2021 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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