Health unit not backing down on delay of school sports

Windsor-Essex County Health Unit, Windsor, January 16, 2020. Blackburn News file photo.

Frustrated parents are planning to protest outside the Windsor-Essex County Health Unit over the decision to delay school sports, but if they hope health officials will retract their recommendation, they may come away disappointed.

The Windsor-Essex County Health Unit recommended the school boards in the region delay the start of extracurricular sports until at least October 1 before classes started. The recommendation was received and accepted by all four publicly-funded school boards in a bid to keep COVID-19 cases low just as the region’s case rates were beginning to rise.

The daily case count has increased dramatically, and school just started this week. Since last Thursday, the health unit has reported 483 new infections.

On Wednesday, the Windsor Essex Catholic District School Board dismissed 57 students at one elementary school after a student tested positive for the virus.

The parents argue the students have been playing sports all summer in anticipation of a return to play this fall, and waiting until the start of October is unfair. Medical Officer of Health Doctor Wajid Ahmed said he sympathizes, but the decision to allow sports must be balanced with the greater good.

“Right now, what we are seeing in our community is a very difficult trend,” he explained. “Our case rate is one of the highest in the province right now.”

While more people are testing positive for COVID-19, the region’s full-vaccination rate among youth is also low.

“Between 12 to 25, our fully vaccinated rate is 55 per cent,” he said. “Roughly half of the people are vaccinated, and half are not. And then we are talking about anybody who is 12 and under is not even eligible to receive the vaccination. So, 100 per cent of them are vulnerable.”

CEO Nicole Dupuis also pointed out the local health unit is not the only one in Ontario to recommend the delay of school sports.

The protest is planned for 4:30 p.m. on Thursday.