Dr. Ahmed to keep Windsor-Essex schools closed

Dr. Wajid Ahmed, medical officer of health for the Windsor-Essex County Health Unit, speaks with reporters on March 12, 2020. Photo by Mark Brown/Blackburn News.

The Medical Officer of Health for Windsor-Essex is essentially telling the province that if it doesn’t keep elementary schools closed for at least a few more weeks, he will.

Dr. Wajid Ahmed told reporters on Thursday that, if the province doesn’t extend elementary school closures until the province-wide lockdown ends on January 23, he will issue an order mandating online learning until at least that day.

Dr. Ahmed says cases continue to increase among school-aged children despite the closure of schools.

“It was not an easy decision I can tell you, my guiding light is always the best interest of the public, the best interest from a public health perspective and we’ll continue to do that, it doesn’t matter how difficult this decision is,” said Ahmed.

Schools will remain open for special needs students as they have been this week.

Daycares within school settings will also be allowed to stay open for pre-school aged children.

According to the latest epidemiological study, Windsor-Essex has the highest positivity rate in the province. The latest data shows 12.3 per cent of all people tested are positive for the virus.

“Most of these children, as we know, maybe their symptoms are not severe, they don’t get sick like the elderly people so they may be there without even realizing they are spreading it. And we know, I have children too, they do not physically distance as much as we would like them to do, they do not adhere to the mask as much as we would like them to,” said Ahmed. “If the community case rates and per cent positivity rate is high the likelihood of having an outbreak in the school setting is really high.”

The Windsor Essex County Health Unit reported 199 new cases of COVID-19 in the region Thursday, surpassing 9,000 cases overall since March 2020.

The health unit also reported three more deaths in the region connected to the virus.

There are 2,512 active cases of COVID-19 in Windsor-Essex.

Dr. Ahmed said he would like to see community cases going down before schools reopen for in-person learning.

“We anticipate that a lot of the cases that we are seeing is because of the holiday season and people still meeting their family members. So hopefully that number should start to go down by the end of the lockdown on January 23 and if we have all the right indication we would definitely support the decision to open the school,” said Ahmed.