Dr. Kurji: 'We have put in many layers of protection in the school system'

As children across the province slide behind desks and resume in-person learning, CTV's Siobhan Morris checks in with York Region's Medical Officer of Health, Dr. Karim Kurji, about his COVID-19 fears.

Q: Students in York Region are headed back to school this week. With that in mind, what concerns you most?

A: We have put in many layers of protection in the school system. We have masking for junior kindergarten, senior kindergarten. We hope that more and more of the 12 to 17-year-olds will get vaccinated. We're at about 79 per cent with first doses.

We have recommended to the school boards that contact sports that are higher risk should really be done only outdoors and that there shouldn't be any school assemblies for the first month, and non-essential visitors should not be attending.

Of course, with respect to our (COVID-19) screening tool, we have added runny noses and sore throats as well, so we're hoping that with all this, we will be able to keep our children safe, but what concerns me most is that the community as a whole, has to play a major role with respect to bringing the cases of COVID-19 in the community down. Because if we reduce that risk, it becomes better for everybody else, including our school children.

Q: What role can the community play to help do that?

A: The most important thing is really getting vaccinated. We're having a lot of challenges just now with respect to case and contact management. For example, we're have basketball tournaments, the most recent one, we've had two cases identified.

Unfortunately, the contact lists that were provided to the organizers seem to have bogus emails, names, and phone numbers. That means we cannot contact those individuals rapidly, and they put themselves, their families, and friends at risk.

In a previous outbreak, we had a father who was admitted into ICU, so we had to investigate ways and means whereby we are able to do this contact tracing rapidly.

Q: Is there any other way you can think of to do that other than the Section 22 order asking for accurate lists of contacts for events?

A: We are hoping that the vaccine certificates will play an important role here. However, if the provincial regulations do not include youth activities--and hockey's just around the corner--we believe that we may have to act a little further in that particular direction.

With vaccine certificates and with government-issued IDs, we should be able to get the names of these contacts in a reliable way.