TORONTO March 9, 2022—With today’s announcement, we want to thank everyone, including students and education staff, for your commitment to and diligence with public health measures throughout the pandemic. We know that masking, daily screening, cohorting and distancing have been tough, but adherence to these measures has allowed schools to remain open.
Keeping schools open has been the most important goal, and we have been pleased to see the decline in school absenteeism, outbreaks, and pediatric hospitalizations over the past eight weeks. The disruption to in-person schooling, due to illness or school closures, has certainly had a negative impact on kids’ learning, development and mental health.
Since we know that most cases of COVID-19 identified in schools originate outside of school, we would have preferred to see masks kept in place for two weeks after March Break so we could have assessed the impact of the broader re-opening of Ontario. Masks remain an important layer of protection as the pandemic continues and may be needed in communities with low vaccination rates and where there is a surge in cases. Masks also protect those most vulnerable, including high-risk, immunocompromised and fragile children.
With the removal of the indoor mask mandate today, for now, we encourage everyone to continue masking in schools, if they are able, to reduce absenteeism and support sustained in-person learning as a precautionary and phased approach as we come out of the Omicron wave. We are pleased that the Chief Medical Officer of Health is continuing to encourage masking as well and that the government is making rapid tests broadly available. We may have to, and would encourage, a return to universal masking when there is a surge in cases that put children and their families at risk.
As a group whose commitment is to the health and well-being of children, we all want the pandemic to be a memory for our kids, not part of their day-to-day. But we’re not quite there yet, and we ask everyone to continue to be thoughtful of those around them and their needs and choices when it comes to masking.