The Medical Officers of Health from Hastings Prince Edward Public Health (HPEPH) and Kingston, Frontenac, and Lennox & Addington Public Health (KFLAPH) have released a joint statement regarding the upcoming return to in-person learning for students and educators across the region.
We know that the pandemic has been difficult for everyone – but it has been especially difficult for school aged children and their families. We are writing to express our full and enthusiastic support for the return to in-person learning this September. We know many students have missed seeing their teachers and friends, and learning in person can provide multiple mental health and wellness benefits to students and their families. As we return to school in person this fall, public health and school boards will continue to work together to prevent the spread of COVID-19 in schools. We are committed to working together to ensure students, educators, and staff can learn as safely as possible in the classroom environment. With preventive infection control measures continuing in schools, increasing rates of COVID-19 vaccination in our region, and relatively stable rates of COVID-19, we are well positioned to ensure a safe and successful return to in-person learning.
However, to keep classrooms safe, we must continue our efforts to keep case rates low in our region. While our collective efforts are paying off, the pandemic is not over. Keeping a low rate of infection in our communities is critical to keeping our schools safe. Parents, guardians, students, educators, school boards, and public health each have a role to play in making the return to school as safe as possible. There are two essential steps you can take to keep our community safe and help keep our students in class this year:
- Get vaccinated. Getting vaccinated against COVID-19 is the most effective tool we have to protect ourselves, friends, and family. Vaccines protect us by helping our body build immunity and decreasing our chance of spreading COVID-19 to others. Getting vaccinated is also important for eligible youth. Although youth are less likely to experience serious illness from COVID-19, some young people do get sick and require hospitalization. In addition, youth who are fully vaccinated will not be required to isolate if they are exposed to a positive case of COVID-19, unless they develop symptoms. Our vaccination rates are increasing, but if you aren’t vaccinated, please do your part to help keep our community safe. Most clinics accept walk-in appointments, so find one near you today by visiting hpeph.ca or kflaph.ca.
- Stay home if you are sick (and keep your student home if they are sick). If anyone has symptoms of COVID-19, even mild ones, they should stay home and get tested for COVID-19. Even for fully vaccinated individuals, it is important to ensure that symptoms are not the result of a mild case of COVID-19, which you could pass on to others.
These two steps, paired with infection control measures such as frequent hand washing, cleaning, and use of face coverings have proven to be effective at controlling the spread of COVID-19. Because of confidence in these measures, certain in-school restrictions have been modified for September 2021, to help students enjoy some in-person learning experiences that were not permitted in the 2020/2021 school year. See the attached fact sheet for more information about what COVID-19 school protocols will be in place in September 2021. Please do your part to help maintain this progress.
Together with our school community partners, we look forward to welcoming local students back to school this September. It will provide immeasurable benefits to the mental and physical well-being of all students and their families. Our students, educators, and staff, deserve the support of all community members to help make this school year as safe as possible. Please do your part to keep yourself, your family, your community, and our schools healthy and safe.
Dr. Piotr Oglaza Dr. Hugh Guan
Medical Officer of Health and Chief Executive Officer Acting Medical Officer of Health
Hastings Prince Edward Public Health KFL&A Public Health
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