The Ontario government refuses to answer a simple question concerning its decision to keep schools closed while opening patios and non-essential retail stores: Who had the bright idea?
Normally, the government claims to make COVID-19 limitations choices based on Dr. David Williams, the Chief Medical Officer of Health. When Premier Doug Ford announced school closures in April, he said the decision was reached after consulting with the top physicians. Williams took part in the press conference and answered questions.
Williams, on the other hand, was not present when Ford declared that schools would be closed for the rest of the year. When asked about the possibility of schools reopening a week ago, the doctor stated that he preferred schools to reopen before businesses.
When CBC News asked if the decision was based on the doctor’s recommendations, officials for Education Minister Stephen Lecce and the Ministry of Health, which handles media queries for Williams, did not comment.
While it’s unclear who made the decision, it’s evident that it’s been divisive even top experts are split and that kids in Ontario, who had already missed more class time than any other students in the country by mid-May, will miss even more.
A letter signed by more than 400 doctors was sent to the Ontario government on Wednesday, requesting a review of the data that led to the decision to keep schools closed, as well as guarantees that students registered for summer school will be able to attend in person, and that all students will be able to attend in-person classes in September.
When Ford solicited doctors for recommendations on what to do about schools on May 27, the majority of doctors agreed that reopening schools was the best option. Other public health specialists, such as Peel Region’s Medical Officer of Health Dr. Lawrence Loh, had differing opinions. He said he understood the prime minister’s decision because of the growing number of cases linked to the delta variety, also known as B.1.617, which was originally discovered in India.
Even the COVID-19 Science Advisory Table in Ontario, a group of public health professionals who publish modeling and make government recommendations, couldn’t agree.
The official stance of the science table, which was signed by other organizations such as SickKids and Children’s Mental Health Ontario, was that schools should have reopened in areas where Dr. Williams and local authorities thought it was safe. Member David Fisman, on the other hand, recused himself from that recommendation and stated on Twitter that he agreed with Ford.
In an interview, Dr. Peter Jüni, the table’s scientific director, said, “That was the first time David Fisman and I disagreed on an issue.”
The divide between individuals who believe schools are clearly safe or clearly unsafe, according to Jüni, “didn’t improve the issue and fundamentally didn’t benefit our children.” He acknowledged that schools pose a threat, but the vast majority of those at the science table believed that the dangers could be addressed. They also concluded that the mental and social benefits to children outweighed the risk.
The table released a new document on the wide-ranging effects of school closures on Monday, which showed that because school workers are the most likely group to disclose such concerns, there has been a decline in reporting of suspected child abuse and neglect. COVID-19-related school closures have continued longer in Ontario than in any other province or territory, with a total of 20 weeks by mid-May, according to the organization.