Peel's top doctor urges residents to reduce contacts once again as schools get set to reopen

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Peel Region’s top public health official is calling on residents to begin reducing their “discretionary contacts” once again amid concerns over the impact that the reopening of schools could have on case counts.

Medical Officer of Health Dr. Lawrence Loh made the comment during a briefing at Brampton city hall on Wednesday.

He said that the advice applies to both vaccinated and unvaccinated individuals.

In Ontario about 21 per cent of the new cases of COVID-19 reported over the last week have involved fully vaccinated individuals.

“We know that children under the age of 12 are not yet eligible for vaccination so the surest way to really ensure that we can keep them in-person and safe is to make sure that we are limiting community transmission which would limit introductions in the school setting,” Loh said. “That is why we're really urging people to eliminate transmission by getting two doses of vaccine and also starting to reduce the discretionary contents where they can.”

Students are set to return to the classroom next week for the first time since April.

The province has put several precautions in place, including mandatory masking.

But it has also decided to allow students to return to something more closely resembling the pre-pandemic norm with extracurricular activities, school assemblies and sports permitted once again.

Speaking with reporters, Loh said that there is a need for increased caution with so many students still unvaccinated.

He said that means a return to some practices that were more widely followed earlier in the pandemic like limiting group sizes and reducing contacts.

He also said that any return to the workplace for non-essential employees should be “gradual” and that companies should not go from “zero to 100” amid a Delta-driven fourth wave of the pandemic.

“I think all of these things to limit contacts and limit the risk of transmission, as well as ensuring that all of us are protected individually, will help to reduce the overall number (of cases) and to reduce the impact (of the fourth wave),” he said.

According to Loh, children between the ages of five and nine represent 3.1 per cent of Peel’s cases while children between the ages of 10 to 14 represent 3.9 per cent of its cases. Children between the ages of 15 to 19 represent 5.4 per cent of Peel’s cases.