Nesathurai hopeful kids will be back in class soon

Children wearing face masks in school. (File photo courtesy of © Can Stock Photo / tomwang)

The region’s Acting Medical Officer of Health remains optimistic schools will reopen later this month.

Children across Windsor-Essex started learning from home again Wednesday morning, following directions laid out by provincial officials last week.

Before Friday’s announcement, Doctor Shanker Nesathurai maintained keeping schools open was a top priority for the Windsor-Essex County Health Unit. Last Friday’s announcement was a provincial directive, not a local one.

Premier Doug Ford announces further province wide restrictions, January 3, 2021. (via YouTube)

Premier Doug Ford announces further province wide restrictions, January 3, 2022. (via YouTube)

Premier Doug Ford said closing schools and moving the province back into a modified version of Step Two in the Reopening Ontario Act was a bid to control the spread of the Omicron variant.

However, Shanker said he still believes schools should remain open except in exceptional circumstances.

“Closing schools should be less emphasized in trying to break the chain of transmission because we believe that schools are such a vital component, especially elementary schools, for the wellbeing of young people,” he said.

The question then is, where did Ontario go wrong?

Nesathurai did not point fingers, saying the pandemic has always been unpredictable.

“I think time will tell when there is an analysis at the end of the pandemic about what were the right approaches and what approaches were not as effective,” he said.

Another message Nesathurai, and his predecessor Doctor Wajid Ahmed, have repeated throughout the management of the local pandemic is that vaccination is the key to ending COVID-19 for good.

Vaccines have been available to children aged five to 11 since November. Yet, the vaccination rate for that cohort in Windsor-Essex is still just 33.7 per cent. That age group has only had time to get one dose so far.

CEO of the Windsor-Essex County Health Unit, Nicole Dupuis on November 4, 2021.

CEO of the Windsor-Essex County Health Unit, Nicole Dupuis on November 4, 2021.

CEO Nicole Dupuis added the full vaccination rate is 76.5 per cent for those 12 to 17 and 81 per cent for all residents five and up.

The number of people who have had their third dose continues to rise. As of Wednesday, almost 132,000 residents in the region have had their booster.

Despite saying the health unit would rely less on daily case counts to communicate the burden of illness in the community, it continues to release that data. On Wednesday, the health unit reported 353 new infections, although “due to the recent surge in Omicron cases and changes in eligibility for testing — case counts in this update is an underestimate of the true number of individuals with COVID-19 in Windsor-Essex,” read the daily summary.

A total of 2,408 people actively have the virus.

Public health officials are shifting their priority from case counting and contact tracing to speeding up vaccinations locally and province-wide.

Another two deaths were reported Wednesday. The deaths of a man in his 40s and one in his 60s raise the regional death toll from COVID-19 to 497.

Currently, there are 45 people in the hospital. As of Tuesday afternoon, 30 people were being treated primarily for COVID-19 at Windsor Regional Hospital, and six of them were in the ICU. Only one patient in intensive care was fully vaccinated. The rest had not had their shots.

As it moves away from case counts, Nesathurai said death rates, the number of people in the hospital and intensive care with the virus, wastewater testing, and workplace absenteeism would gain greater prominence in daily summary reports.