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SickKids CEO’s official recommendations for reopening schools

Tuesday, June 23rd 2020, 3:47 pm - Dr. Ronald Cohn, President and CEO of SickKids, and Dr. Michelle Science, Infectious Disease Physician at SickKids, share advice on how best to reopen schools while the COVID-19 pandemic persists.

“It’s now time to accept that this virus will be around for many more months. And we need to focus our attention to the silent voices of our children,” shares Ronald Cohn President and CEO of SickKids Hospital in Toronto.

The Weather Network’s Rachel Schoutsen interviewed Dr. Cohn and Dr. Michelle Science, Infectious Disease Physician at SickKids. Dr. Cohn and Dr. Science are two contributors to SickKids' “COVID-19: Recommendations for School Reopening” playbook. Schoutsen connected with the children-health leaders to receive additional information surrounding the recently released recommendation guide.

SickKids Hospital SickKids hospital in Toronto. Courtesy of Wikipedia/Creative Commons. CC-BY-SA-3.0-MIGRATED

Though the interview starts off with Dr. Cohn’s impactful quote from above, the conversation continues to provide parents, kids, teachers, and anyone connected to a school system, with tangible recommendations on how best to proceed during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Dr. Science appreciates that school helps children with development and mental health. She explains that "close interaction such as playing and socializing is really central to child development and should not be discouraged.” She also comments that the general structure of the school day supports a child’s mental health.

In terms of what schools will look like, Dr. Science shares that “we have put some measures in place to avoid long periods of close contact; like separating desks for students and avoiding large assemblies. Overall, we think it is not realistic or in children's best interest to completely avoid all close interaction and play."

So the verdict is in, according to SickKids, children should go back to school. Schools should be taking this time to prepare for reopenings. Suggestions that are made include, updating class sizes (Ontario plans to cap capacity at 15 kids per classroom), educate the importance of handwashing, require frequent handwashing and sanitization, and provide temperature checks. Kids who are not feeling well should of course not go to school.

When it comes to the mask debate, Dr. Science recommends that kids do not wear masks. She explains that small children could get irritated with their masks, causing an inflated frequency of face-touching.

But even with all the safety measures in place, what should a school do if someone in their building gets COVID-19? Dr. Cohn shares that “There is no blueprint in terms of a one size fits all approach. I think what needs to be really carefully approached is - one positive case through testing, through contact tracing - in order to mitigate an immediate school closure for example.”

Watch the video above to hear the full interview.

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