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Science advisers say Ontario can safely reopen some schools on a regional basis

TORONTO — Ontario’s COVID-19 science table says the province can re-open schools safely on a regional basis while limiting the risk of further virus transmission.

The new advice comes in response to Premier Doug Ford’s request for input on whether or not the province should reopen schools as virus cases trend downward.

The group says some regions could reopen based on the advice of local medical officers of health and continued adherence to public health measures.

They say the closure is harming some students’ physical and mental health and reopening would allow schools to re-establish contact with teachers and peers.

The province closed schools in April as COVID-19 cases surged and Ford has said he wants a consensus on the issue from stakeholders before making a decision.

The science table recently said reopening schools could cause COVID-19 case rates to rise between six and 11 per cent. 

The group says today that it believes the increase in cases that would result from re-opening schools is small and that most public health units believe that they can manage those increases.

Meanwhile, pharmacists are hurrying this weekend to administer thousands of doses of the Oxford-AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine before they expire in a matter of days. 

Ontario has been trying to redistribute a stockpile of 45,000 shots expiring on Monday and 10,000 more going bad in June. 

But quality checks held up the delivery of thousands of the shots, and many weren’t delivered until Friday.

Justin Bates, the head of the Ontario Pharmacists Association, said that with just three days left to complete vacciations, participating pharmacies will work hard over the weekend to avoid waste.

The province paused the use of the AstraZeneca vaccine earlier this month due to an increase in reports of rare but deadly blood clots.

This week, the province started offering it again as a second shot to people who received the dose between March 10 and March 19 at pharmacies in Toronto, Windsor and Kingston, and at some primary care offices.

Approximately 90,000 people participated in the AstraZeneca pilot between March 10 and March 19.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published May 29, 2021.

The Canadian Press