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COVID-19: Doug Ford defends not reopening Ontario schools, trying to get general ‘consensus’

Click to play video: 'Premier trying to get general ‘consensus’ before deciding on reopening Ontario schools' Premier trying to get general ‘consensus’ before deciding on reopening Ontario schools
WATCH: As students head into the final month of the school year, questions remain on if schools will reopen in the following weeks. As Erica Vella reports, the province has turned to experts to weigh in – May 28, 2021

Ontario Premier Doug Ford says he stands behind his decision to seek guidance from others as to whether or not schools should be reopened in the province amid the third wave of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Ford’s stance comes despite admitting his chief medical officer of health supports the decision to reopen schools, despite modelling suggesting the province could see an increase in cases by six to 11 per cent.

However, the province’s science advisory table has said that increase would be “manageable.”

“… That could equal to thousands of cases. Folks, do you want to go backwards again? … I want to make sure looking forward, we are able to get the kids into camp.  I want to look forward and make sure we have a great September for kids to go back into school and this could affect our opening as well,” Ford said at a press conference related to the province’s vaccine rollout.

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“So I want to make sure all the t’s are crossed, all the I’s are dotted. And I’m going to be super cautious over a couple of extra days. Folks, it’s well worth it, getting a consensus from everybody,” he continued.

Read more: COVID-19: Doug Ford pens letter asking doctors, experts whether Ontario schools should reopen

Ontario students were moved to remote learning in mid-April.

On Thursday, Ford penned an open letter asking experts and doctors to weigh in as to whether or not schools should be reopened. The letter came with seven questions and a deadline of 5 p.m. Friday.

Ford said he knows “very clearly” where Dr. David Williams stands but that he wants to hear from other doctors, the teachers unions and others involved directly with schools.

“This is a big, big decision folks. We’re talking for the next few weeks kids are going to go to school and I want to make sure the kids are safe, I want to make sure the teacher are safe,” Ford continued.

Ontario parents, critics and experts have been calling on resuming in-person learning due to the possibility of detrimental effects on students in regards to their mental health.

Dr. Adalsteinn (Steini) Brown, co-chair for Ontario’s COVID-19 Science Advisory Table, had previously said schools should be the last to close and the first to reopen.

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Read more: COVID-19: Schools to remain closed as Ontario unveils reopening plan

Ford also wrote the province is “expecting new modelling this week that puts the range of new cases associated with school reopening between 2,000 and 4,000 cases by the end of July.”

“This is concerning,” he continued.

The letter also cited a recent British study that a single vaccine dose was only 33 per cent effective against the B.1.617.2 variant first identified in India.

“What makes all this new information concerning is that only 41 per cent of teachers and education workers are vaccinated compared to 62 per cent of the general adult population in Ontario,” Ford wrote.

Read more: Ontario school boards would be able to resume in-person learning with few days’ notice

In addition, many students are not yet vaccinated at all due to a lack supply, he said.

Several Ontario school boards said Wednesday they would be able to resume in-person learning with a few days’ notice if the government decides to send students back to classrooms for the last month of the academic year.

A number of local public health units have also voiced support for the reopening of schools, including Toronto Medical Officer of Health Dr. Eileen De Villa who said she supports students going back to in-person learning before the lifting of other restrictions.

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