CHEO doctor discusses getting back to school safely during COVID-19

CBC radio spoke with pediatric infectious disease specialist Dr. Nisha Thampi about how to keep students, teachers, and staff safer in schools during the ongoing pandemic.
By: Alison Larabie Chase
August 18, 2020
Dr. Nisha Thampi. Photo: Hallie Cotnam/CBC

Dr. Nisha Thampi is the medical director of infection prevention and control at the Children’s Hospital of Eastern Ontario, and she also has two elementary-aged children heading back to school in a couple of weeks. CBC’s Dr. Brian Goldman asked her how families and the community can help keep everyone safer when school begins again this September. Dr. Thampi emphasized the importance of keeping community transmission low, so that fewer people are bringing COVID-19 into schools in the first place. She says in-person education is important if it can be done safely, and that if cases begin to tick upwards in the community, “other high-risk social settings” should be closed to reduce that transmission, rather than immediately closing schools again.

The doctors also discussed the importance of safety measures being taken throughout the school, not just in the classroom. For example, teachers should wear masks when interacting with one another as well as with students, and lunch breaks should be staggered or eliminated altogether. Recess, as an outdoor activity, is a lower risk for COVID-19 transmission, and Dr. Thampi also praised the idea of outdoor classes, with adjustments made for colder weather.

She also noted that more support will be needed for teachers and students, perhaps in the form of staff who can assist younger children with hand-washing and mask-fitting and support physical distancing in a positive way.

Source: CBC Radio

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