Louise Gagne, Executive Director of Community Services (top left); Dr. Jim Chirico, Medical Officer of Health (top right); Andrea McLellan, Director of Immunization (bottom right); and Alex McDermid, Communications Officer (bottom left) during Thursday's media conference. (Photo screenshot via North Bay Parry Sound District Health Unit)
The North Bay Parry Sound District Health Unit is on board with the province’s decision to move students to remote learning next week.
Louise Gagne, Executive Director of Community Services for the Health Unit addressed the decision during Thursday’s weekly media conference three days after the Premier’s announcement.
“The Health Unit does recognize that in-person learning is the best situation for our students and as well for their parents and guardians,” noted Gagne. “The situation that we’re experiencing across the province has escalated to the point where the province has made the necessary and important decision to close schools across the province in addition to implementing the stay-at-home order.”
“In circumstances like this, the province needs to play a role in protecting and reducing the spread of COVID-19 across the province. When the time comes, local authorities will be consulted and we will be advocating for a return of in-person learning,” Gagne continued.
Premier Doug Ford announced Monday students will do remote learning indefinitely in order to reduce community spread of COVID-19.
Gagne pointed out there have been more cases of community transmission in the district, meaning people don’t know where they contract the virus.
“The situation is like nothing we’ve seen before in the province and we need to be working together across the province to prevent and slow the spread of COVID-19,” she said.
Rob Hammond, President of the Near North Elementary Teachers Union, believes the decision on whether or not schools should open should be left to local health units, not the province.
Dr. Jim Chirico, Medical Officer of Health, says he will follow the province’s direction on the closures, adding there’s work to be done on the local level.
“The quickest way to get back to school is to ensure that we all follow public health measures so we can keep the spread of the virus low in the community. The biggest risk to the schools is if we have high case numbers in the community,” he said.
“There’s not going to be one indicator that will determine it,” Dr. Chirico continued. “Our district’s numbers may be low, but we have to be aware of what’s happening provincially, what’s happening in our neighbouring districts… there are many factors involved and it will ultimately be up to the province to make the decision.”
Ontario recorded a record high of 4,736 new cases of COVID-19 on Thursday.