Toronto’s Hospital for Sick Children has released a new report with updated recommendations for a safe return to school.
Its guidelines suggest a full-time, in-person return would be best for children, from educational, mental health and social development standpoints.
While doctors and other health officials from across Ontario agree face coverings may be useful in halting the spread of COVID-19 among high-school students, they don’t recommend them for younger children.
Dr. Jeffrey Pernica, the medical director of infectious diseases at McMaster University in Hamilton, says masks are not the sole line of defence against COVID-19.
Pernica says masks can be distracting to younger children, and can have other potential harm if not worn correctly.
Dr. Michelle Science of SickKids says “a bundle of measures” will eliminate risk of transmission within schools rather than one specific precaution.
Things like daily screening for symptoms, physical distancing when possible and cohorting should also be in the return plan, she added.
The doctors say evidence is mounting that young children don’t play a “significant role” in spreading COVID-19, compared to teenagers and other adults.
The Ford government has said it will announce their back to school plan by the end of the week.