The local medical officer of health says the best way to keep COVID-19 out of schools is for people to continue to take precautions to keep the disease out of the broader community.
This is not the time to relax our collective guard, said Dr. Nicola Mercer, Medical Officer of Health and CEO of Wellington-Dufferin-Guelph Public Health, in a phone interview on Friday.
Mercer said there is a lot of concern and fear about schools reopening.
“If you look worldwide you will see there have been examples of schools reopening on both sides of concern,” said Mercer. “So there have been areas of the world that have had significant outbreaks and there have been parts of the world that have opened their schools and have done so successfully with no major outbreaks.”
The significant factor to successfully open the schools is to limit COVID in the community, said Mercer.
“Obviously I want people to have social contact but we cannot let our guard down.”
Mercer said many people in Guelph and area will be increasing their social bubbles with the impending opening of schools and students returning to post-secondary institutions.
“I know, especially with a long weekend coming up and moving ahead people are not also physically distancing and are sometimes cheating on their bubbles and their social contacts,” said Mercer.
Her advice for the long weekend and beyond: don’t cheat.
“Having indoor events or even large outdoor barbecues where people are not practicing physical distancing or wearing masks, this is not the time to let our guard down because if we can keep it our of our community we can keep it out of our schools,” she said.
Mercer said she is not concerned about the international students returning to university because they are very heavily monitored.
“They arrive, they are quarantined and then tested,” said Mercer.
The bigger concern, she said, is the students moving to Guelph from other parts of Ontario and Canada, creating all-new social bubbles.
“People who have been with their own family bubble in their own area, wherever that area is in Ontario and other provinces, are now creating new bubbles and reuniting with people and friends they haven’t seen in a long time and perhaps also gathering in groups larger than 10,” said Mercer.
“This is a significant concern for me because it only takes one person in a bubble to import COVID and then you can have an increased spread in your community.”