During his usual Thursday press briefing, Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Kieran Moore tried to offer assurances about the re-opening of schools next week and the potential re-opening of the provincial economy the week after. Meanwhile, teachers and public health units still have concerns about what’s coming, and whether teachers and parents have everything they need when the bell rings on Monday morning.
“It will be a difficult January, but the sacrifices you’re making now means a better February, and then a better March for all of us,” Moore said before asking Ontarians to get their booster as soon as possible, and to not let vaccine clinics sit idle.
“And as a reminder, both Moderna and Pfizer are equally good and provide strong protection against COVID-19 and its variants, so please take the first vaccine available,” Moore explained. “In fact, Moderna is recommended for those who are older, as it has robust and prolonged protection. It is as effective or, in some studies, more effective at protecting against hospitalization than the Pfizer vaccine. It’s also safe and effective to receive what we call a mixed dose series, or a first, second and third dose of COVID-19 vaccines that are not the same vaccine brand.”
The pressure to get boosters is commensurate with the growing frustration of businesses that are hoping that they will be able to re-open on January 26. Moore said he can’t make any guarantees and won’t even know for sure until he and the science table sees more data early next week.
“We’ll be watching the same data as those experts at the science table and we collaborate with them to be able to inform public health measures, but I hear the sentiment, no one likes having to impose public health measures,” Moore said. “We should start to see the benefit of the sacrifices that Ontarians have made early in the week, and we should be able to get clarity on where we’re at. As soon as we have clarity, we want to inform the business community.”
In the meantime, all eyes are on schools. The Dufferin-Peel Catholic District School Board released a very terse letter to the Minister of Education to express a wide-range of different emotions about the re-starting of in-person classes on Monday.
“I am writing on behalf of the Dufferin-Peel Catholic District School Board of Trustees to express our grave concern, disappointment, and frustration with the recent change in provincial protocols regarding the management of COVID-19 in schools, specifically with the discontinuation of COVID-19 reporting and dismissal of students and staff when a positive case has been identified in the class or cohort,” read the letter signed by Chair Sharon Hobin.
Horbin outlined several different frustrations and concerns including a lack of transparency and consultation, inadequate masks for students, inequitable access to testing, and the fact that there’s been no move to smaller class sizes. She also said that their board prides itself on the way it does outreach to their stakeholders, and have the same expectation for the Provincial government.
“We want our classrooms open to welcome students in as safe and healthy manner as we possibly can. And we need to do so with the support and confidence of our parents/guardians and staff,” Hobin wrote. “Reverting to the previous case and contact management system, including transparent reporting of known positive COVID-19 cases in schools and sharing this information in accordance with applicable privacy laws with parents/guardians as per the previous established protocol, would go a long way toward regaining the trust of our community.”
For Guelph schools that are part of the Upper Grand District School Board, concerned parents will have an potential alternative to sending kids back to in-person classes on Monday with the Temporary Remote Learning option for elementary students. Through this program, students will be able to connect to their in-person class from home on a temporary basis, even though synchronous/live teaching will not be available.
“Any families who wish to participate in the elementary temporary remote option would be required to notify their school office indicating that their child will be accessing temporary remote and indicate the length of time they anticipate their child will continue learning remotely,” a statement on the school board’s page said.