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Back to school plans can work if people take pandemic precautions seriously

Chief public health officer speaks out on plans for the new school year
Dr. Penny Sutcliffe, Medical Officer of Health for Public Health Sudbury and Districts (File Photo)

A message from the medical officer of health (MOH) in Sudbury is telling residents that back to school time can be safe and successful if everyone takes pandemic precautions seriously.

Dr. Penny Sutcliffe, MOH for Public Health Sudbury and Districts (PHSD) issued a statement Friday afternoon calling on city residents to do whatever they can to lower the risk of the coronavirus in the community. 

"Make no mistake — the best way to support safe and successful school reopening is to keep COVID-19 out of our communities. The lower the risk of the virus in our communities, the lower the risk in our schools. This means that now, more than ever, we need to recommit to COVID-19 prevention. The decisions we take now—to wash our hands, keep two-metres distance from people not in our social circle, wear a mask or face covering, and to stay home when ill and seek testing—will make all the difference for our schools’ safety and for our kids’ health," said Sutcliffe.

She said the "rapidly-evolving" return to school plan is raising many questions, challenges and emotions in the city. 

"You may be weighing many things as you try to figure out what is right for your personal situation. Over the past several weeks, I have heard from many parents, caregivers, educators, school support staff, and other members of our community," said Sutcliffe.  

She said people are worried and wondering how to balance such issues as the physical and emotional health of children, students, family members, and educators; access to child care and other services; and jobs and personal family finances.

"Know that I hear and acknowledge these concerns. The decision to proceed with either in-school or online enrolment is difficult and personal, and there is no one right answer. Public Health Sudbury & Districts will continue to provide up-to-date public health information and analysis to help you with your decisions. We are also working hard with education partners to support them as they implement the Ministry of Education direction," Sutcliffe said.

She also encouraged city residents to choose kindness as they go forward.

"I strongly urge us all to be kind, patient, and respectful of one another as we navigate these next steps. There are many unknowns, many different personal circumstances, and many different emotions. Asking good questions is key. Keep yourself informed of provincial direction and get engaged in local decisions. We all have a responsibility to do the best we can to support our kids as we walk this unprecedented path together."

Sutcliffe's full statement can be seen on the PHSD website

The Ontario Government guidelines for returning to school are listed here