Top health official says vaccination of primary school-age children offers ‘hope’ even as school-related COVID-19 cases rise

The number of Ontario schools closed due to COVID-19 outbreaks or operational considerations related to the pandemic has risen again, and Ontario’s top public health official is warning that we will “sadly see more cases in school settings” in the coming weeks and months. .

The Department of Education says there are now 16 schools in Ontario that have switched to distance learning, up from 15 a day earlier.

It is the highest number ever this school year and represents a significant increase from this time last week, when only five schools were closed.

Three of the closed schools are in Toronto, including Grenoble Public School, which was forced to close earlier this week after at least 15 students tested positive for COVID-19.

“This is the time of year when we expect an increase (in cases) and unfortunately we will see more cases in school settings, especially the elementary level where they have not had the benefit of vaccine,” Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Kieran Moore said during a briefing Thursday afternoon.

“However, the silver lining is that we now have the vaccine (for kids ages five to 11). So for parents, I think one of the main drivers of getting your child vaccinated is the reduction in risk in school, the social environment or at home because the vaccine is very potent in preventing infection, about 90.7 percent protection against symptomatic COVID-19 in the randomized clinical control trials. That’s just a brilliant level of protection.”

School-related cases of COVID-19 declined steadily for most of October, but have been increasing for several weeks now, surpassing the increase in infections in the wider community.

According to the latest data released by the Ministry of Education, there were 154 new cases of COVID-19 among public school students and staff, confirmed over a 24-hour period ending on Wednesday afternoon.

That’s more than 129 cases in the same period last week.

The number of active cases linked to the public school system has risen 24 percent in the past week and now stands at 1,489.

In comparison, the number of active cases in Ontario increased by just 14 percent over the same period.

During the question period in Queen’s Park on Thursday, NDP MPP Rima Berns-McGown said parents are now looking “nervous” at the numbers because “the last time we saw the numbers soar, the county’s cancellation of personal classes isn’t too far.” behind.”

However, Moore told reporters Thursday afternoon that the advent of pediatric vaccines for school-age children “should help limit the spread in elementary school” and ultimately ensure that personalized learning can continue to be offered.

“First doses will be helpful and second doses will be hugely beneficial to Delta in limiting the spread. So there is hope. I know this is a difficult time. But there is hope now that we have the vaccine that we can have a diminishing impact can have on our primary school system,” he says.

Since the start of the school year, there have been 6,945 confirmed cases of COVID-19 linked to schools. During the 2020-2021 school year, it took until December 17 to surpass that number.

The number of school closures is also well above the 2020 level, when only four schools had switched to distance learning. However, that number rose to 22 by the December break.

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