The Middlesex-London Health Unit (MLHU) says it will be imperative that students maintain their COVID-19 vigilance if the region wants to avoid new cases in school-aged children in the coming weeks.
That was the message shared during a briefing from the MLHU about an hour before the Ontario government announced that most elementary school students would continue with online learning.
The move affects 27 public health unit regions in southern Ontario, including London and Middlesex County.
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During Thursday’s media briefing, associate medical officer of health Dr. Alex Summers noted that schools in London and Middlesex County remained relatively safe in the fall.
“We’ve still, to this date, seen very little transmission within schools, despite the rising incidence rate amongst school-aged children, particularly through December,” Summers said.
The health official added that although December did see an increase in the number of outbreaks declared in schools, along with transmission in schools, the uptick was the result of an increase in community transmission.
“Where we have seen transmission amongst this age group has primarily not been within the classroom, but outside of the classroom,” Summers said, adding that protocols in place have largely limited any potential transmission in schools
The extended school closures in London and Middlesex County will now mirror the current lockdown the region is under, which is set to last until Jan. 23, assuming no further changes are made.
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“Even if children are learning remotely come Monday, it is critical that those absences from the classroom are not replaced with visits to visit friends or others because that’s where we saw transmission truly in the fall,” Summers said.
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In a statement from the Thames Valley District School Board (TVDSB), the largest school board in the region, parents and guardians were advised that more information about the return to in-school learning would be provided “as soon as it becomes available”.
TVDSB also noted that it is in the process of deploying nearly 9,000 computing devices to students in order to support at-home learning.
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