Local acting MOH reluctant to shutdown area schools

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The acting medical officer of health for Windsor and Essex County is reluctant to shutdown area schools.

Dr. Shanker Nesathurai says the Windsor-Essex County Health Unit's goal is to keep children in the classroom.

He made the comments Monday morning during the health unit's COVID-19 briefing, when asked if the health unit is considering closing down schools prior to the holiday break like in 2020.

Last December, the health unit issued a Section 22 Order after the rapid rise in COVID-19 cases in Windsor-Essex.

The order called for the closure of the schools the week before the holiday break and shifted students to an online learning model.

Dr. Nesathurai says the health unit has implemented public health measures to achieve to help achieve its goal of keeping children in classrooms. 

"We should do everything possible to keep schools open for instruction, " he says. "I think that's really one of public health's priorities and I think it's a community priority."   

Dr. Nesathurai says the goal is to reduce the number of cases in the community.

"The more cases in the community, the more likely there are to be people exposing children in classes and the more exposures there are in classes, the more classes are dismissed and if the goal is to break the chain of transmission, we really want to make sure the cases don't make their way into the school," says Dr. Nesathurai.      

He says the health unit will continue to monitor the data.

"At this point, I would be very reluctant and I think the public health service overall would be very reluctant overall to close schools but every option remains available to control COVID and that's one of the reasons we release the Letter of Instruction with these additional public health measures," adds Dr. Nesathurai.

Elementary and secondary students in Windsor-Essex did not return to the classroom until early February 2021 after the order was put in place.

Dr. Nesathurai says to date, 679 school cohorts have been dismissed in Windsor-Essex since the beginning of the school.

He says the dismissals have impacted roughly 13,000 school age children.