Medical experts urge more masking, distancing for schools planning to reopen

THE CANADIAN PRESS | posted Friday, Jan 22nd, 2021

Experts at a leading children’s hospital say schools need to ramp up COVID-19 testing and masking in order to have all kids return to the classroom as soon as possible.

The guidance comes a day after Ontario said it would permit just seven public health units in southern Ontario resume in-person learning Monday, while students in hot-spot regions will continue with online learning until at least Feb. 10.

They join others in northern regions that returned to class last week, but areas including Toronto and Peel were deemed too-high risk to return to class.

The new guidelines, led by experts at Toronto’s Hospital for Sick Children, urge COVID-19 tests for all staff and students exposed to a confirmed case, while indoor masking be made mandatory for all those Grade 1 and up.

The report’s co-author Dr. Ronald Cohn says the current protocol is that testing is only required for those who display symptoms.

He also stresses the social and mental-health needs of young children, recommending kindergartners be cohorted so they can play and interact with their peers.

Cohn, president and CEO, SickKids, said schools closures should be “as time-limited as possible.”

“It is therefore imperative that bundled measures of infection prevention and control and a robust testing strategy are in place,” he said Thursday in a release.

The report also cautions against rapid tests using molecular or antigen tests because of their lower sensitivity and less effectiveness with asymptomatic cases.

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