With classrooms closed due to the novel coronavirus pandemic, the Thames Valley District School Board (TVDSB) says it’s taken thousands of pieces of personal protective equipment (PPE) from its schools and donated them to front line medical staff.
The board says the items, including some 18,000 disposable gloves and hundreds of disposable gowns, respirators, and filters, have been doled out over the last few weeks to several local hospitals, including London Health Sciences Centre.
“Certainly from what’s been in the news, there is a dramatic need for (PPE) to support our frontline health-care workers. So we absolutely wanted to help as much as we could,” said Jeff Pratt, TVDSB’s associate director, on Thursday.
Hospitals in Woodstock, Tillsonburg, and Ingersoll, and Windemere Family Medical Centre in St. Thomas also received some of the donated equipment, which the board says is normally used by schools and by their custodial staff.
“We inventoried all of our schools, looked at what inventory we had, and what we were able to donate,” Pratt said.
“Some of the requests we received directly, and others, we approached them just as part of the general call-out.”
TVDSB isn’t donating all of its school PPE supply, Pratt stressed. The board is keeping some supply at hand in case normal classes resume and students and staff return to school.
“We’re not exactly sure at this point in time where we will start re-engaging students into our physical school buildings,” Pratt said.
“So if we need to start transitioning back into the schools, you know, in the month of June or perhaps for start up in September, we do still have some critical supplies remaining.”
On Sunday, Education Minister Stephen Lecce announced that publicly-funded schools would stay closed until at least May 31, adding that the closure could be further extended.
Students have already transitioned to learning online over the past month, with the province distributing at least 20,000 iPads to students whose families don’t have the means to access online learning.
In a statement issued by the school board, the head of the London Health Sciences Foundation (LHSF), John MacFarlane, praised the TVDSB’s donation.
“This donation directly supports our hospital and our front-line healthcare professionals to ultimately ensure they stay safe and healthy during the fight against COVID-19,” he said.
A recent poll by the Canadian Medical Association of nearly 2,500 doctors across Canada found 42 per cent had seen no change in the supply of gear such as masks and face shields in the last month, while 29 per cent felt the supply is now worse.
On Tuesday, Prime Minister Trudeau announced that six million surgical masks would be shipped to the provinces and territories this week, noting that 100,000 face shields were also on the way soon.
— With files from The Canadian Press
Questions about COVID-19? Here are some things you need to know:
Health officials caution against all international travel. Returning travellers are legally obligated to self-isolate for 14 days, beginning March 26, in case they develop symptoms and to prevent spreading the virus to others. Some provinces and territories have also implemented additional recommendations or enforcement measures to ensure those returning to the area self-isolate.
Symptoms can include fever, cough and difficulty breathing — very similar to a cold or flu. Some people can develop a more severe illness. People most at risk of this include older adults and people with severe chronic medical conditions like heart, lung or kidney disease. If you develop symptoms, contact public health authorities.
To prevent the virus from spreading, experts recommend frequent handwashing and coughing into your sleeve. They also recommend minimizing contact with others, staying home as much as possible and maintaining a distance of two metres from other people if you go out.
For full COVID-19 coverage from Global News, click here.