WELLINGTON COUNTY – The region’s top doctor is asking everyone in the community to do their part to ensure a safe return to class for local students, noting “the benefits of reopening in-person learning ultimately outweigh the short-term risks.”
In a Jan. 14 letter to the community, Dr. Nicola Mercer, medical officer of health with Wellington-Dufferin-Guelph Public Health (WDGPH), stressed that in-person learning “is important, not just for our children, but for their families and the broader community.”
Mercer noted that when children cannot attend school, “there are serious and long-lasting impacts on their mental health, wellbeing and academic progress.”
She said with the return to school on Jan. 17, area residents “must carefully consider the state of the pandemic and its risk to schools.
“The Omicron variant of COVID-19 is highly transmissible, driving a troubling surge in cases and putting significant pressure on many of our systems and supports,” stated Mercer.
“If we look at the spread of Omicron in other countries, it will likely be several weeks at least before the situation begins to improve in Wellington-Dufferin-Guelph.”
Mercer says for in-person learning to be successful, “we must protect schools against the spread of the Omicron variant.
“Schools, school boards and their partners across the region have made many changes to make schools as safe as possible,” she stated.
“But it will take all of us working together as a community to drive down the levels of COVID-19 locally to make schools safer.”
She stressed the best way to do that is to get vaccinated – including a booster when eligible – and continue to follow public health measures.
Mercer also encouraged families to use only “trusted sources” of news and information when making decisions about in-person versus online learning.
“Many families in our community rely on in-person learning to support their economic and social wellbeing,” she stated.
“Many children depend on in-person learning for reasons of food security, safety and many other benefits beyond what is contained in their lessons.
“For this reason, I believe that the benefits of reopening in-person learning ultimately outweigh the short-term risks.”
Mercer’s letter concluded, “I know we can meet this moment as a community. We must continue to support one another and continue the fight against this pandemic.
“We must do all we can to safeguard the education of our children, the health of our region and our future together.”
To read Mercer’s complete letter visit wdgpublichealth.ca.