Ottawa Medical Officer of Health Dr. Vera Etches says it's time for Ottawa students to get back into the classroom.
Etches says it's going to be several months before we have any significant protection from COVID-19 vaccines, and that there is no way we should wait for that protection before sending students back to school.
"The level of community transmission right now in Ottawa is similar to, or lower now, than it was at our peak in October when schools were open, and we managed that level," Dr. Etches says. "My goal is to ensure that our schools are open as soon as possible."
Dr. Etches adds that keeping schools closed is causing harm within the community, saying that children, youth and parents are not able to function as well when they don't have the support of having children in school.
Dr. Etches says, while we can never completely prevent COVID-19 from entering schools, she is confident that we can manage the current levels, as we did in the fall.
"My recommendation to open schools comes from seeing the decline in the per cent of people testing positive, seeing the reproductive number coming down, seeing the rate of COVID in our community coming down and knowing that our team is committed to support teacher, parents, schools and students."
Dr. Etches says, when schools do reopen, infection control measures will be enforced. All students will need to be screened for symptoms each morning before leaving the house and masks will be mandatory for students in grades 1 through 3.
Dr. Etches is hoping to get an update from the province this week.