Town Hall with Minister Stephen Lecce and Medical Officer Dr. Karim Kurji



Minister Stephen Lecce Remark:

We've got the whole York team present, which is strong. And I think it reflects our sense of gratitude JC for bringing us together. I want to just I'll keep it quick because I know there's a lot of questions. And I know Dr. Kurji you have a lot of perspective to share from his lens from the emerging evidence. I think overall, what I want to say to parents out there and everyone watching and participating is that our commitment is to ensure that we do everything humanly possible to de risk the circumstance that the Chief Medical Officer of this province with great respect to Dr. Kurij but the most senior medical authority, you know, working with Dr. Kurji, has endorsed this plan. I mean, that is a really somber fact. I mean, the fact of the chief medical officer who was the individual who called me in March, to say, you know, respectfully, I think we have to close schools because of the risk of merging, and we did so within about 75 minutes of that request, is the same individual who has given his full confidence at this plan. Introducing a multitude of actions or layers of prevention and differentiating strengths and on trailer just don't exist in other parts of the country, I think only underscore the fact that we are doing something right with an acknowledgement friends that, you know, we're the overwhelming, extraordinary challenge and adversity of putting 2 million kids into a congregate setting and back in the classroom, it is not an easy task for our boards or trustees or educators government, all of us for parents the aches that you have. And I don't that doesn't I don't take that away from me. What I can just simply affirm to you is that our obligation and government is to put every single investment and resource in place to keep them safe. And if I could just quickly speak about them. And then I'll turn it over back to Daisy for Dr. Kurji's thoughts, but just an overview of where we're at. So in Ontario, we are by any measurements leading the nation in virtually every area of expenditure more money than any province is spending in the restart 50% more than one British Columbia is doing as for context, but it goes beyond the money It's also about the layers of prevention. We are the only province in this country that will have that has a comprehensive masking policy. The evidence of the emerging evidence from the medical communities that masking is effective so long as it's done combination with other layer other actions to address the circumstance. So we are we are masquerade for up based on the emerging evidence that that is effective, we're ensuring distance. Today we announced we unlocked an additional half a billion dollars $500 million for school boards to utilize for the purpose of further distancing, quitting more distancing and more spacing to help further de risk the circumstance. I also announced today $50 million investment in ventilation because the emerging evidence that has existed for some time strengthened over the past weeks is that air quality and air control is really important when it comes to improving the environmental space of these children, especially if they're in a classroom for a longer day. I'll be standing on the gold side when the season's permitted. But the fact is air quality is important. Again, Dr. Could you could expand upon these principles from the medical perspective, from what we were told. The advice, I saw it from the command table from Dr. Williams, and from external counsel, including from the Hospital for Sick Children, is that this is critical. So we spend about $1.4 billion a year. But there's more we can do immediate one time investment. To do two things. One is improved the airflow capacity of our school boards, our air quality capacity by improving filters and investing in filters right across our system. So each fact systems are stronger and better. And the second thing is for portables, and for classrooms in older schools, we can provide HVAC filters and what sort of mobile air ventilation systems for those classrooms may be costly, but we put aside the resources to do it to make sure school boards are better support in this respect, just to strengthen the quality of air and idea of flow that exists within schools and I know for some of us, I mean, we European region, some of our schools. Schools are a bit older. Thankfully, a lot of our schools are not that old, our h faxes are strong. But nonetheless, even in the new systems, we want to improve the filters to have Merv 13 filtration, which is the highest standard that is supported by the medical community overwhelmingly, and something that we will be procuring and we'll turn that's important. We also in the context of what we're doing a bit differently as we have 500, public health nurses that we are hiring in real time to support screening to support testing and symptom relief, because you know, your child inevitably may get a flu, you know, as per the flu season, and then they got a cold these things will happen, that these challenges will always manifest and we need to be responsive to it. The added advantage of this year, unlike any year before, in any province in Canada, is we actually have medical assets doctors embedded or rather, nurses embedded within our schools, and doing training for educators as well, that's really important and really vital, I think, to our ability to respond to deploy resources if there's ever a challenge that arises this fall. In the context of a second waiver, but anything really, we're also doing testing, I mean of healthy and important element of our protocol is about ensuring that our testing regime is strong. It's the surveillance is strong, it's dynamic, and it's consistent. And we have the only problems that we'll be doing systematic surveillance testing of asymptomatic students, that's going to be critical.


We put $40 million for cleaning up touch points on buses, because for some of you, you know, obviously buses, so your kids get to school back and forth, and I want to make sure that those touch points are constantly cleaned according to the advice. We've also set aside $75 million for cleaning of our schools to hire 1300 more custodians to put $25 million in more hand sanitation and soap and to be to change the routine of the class so that hand hygiene becomes hand hygiene becomes a critical reality and new reality for September where kids are constantly be doing this with your classes, of course supported by the principle of cohorting, which is keeping the kids together. Other limiting interaction with other kids, which means contact tracing, outbreak management is strengthened, it's better. And it allows us to respond in a more nimble ways so that if you know, symptom arises, we're dealing with a class versus a school or something more broadly, that's really important as well. So we've got cohorting, for elementary, high school, we have in addition to the cleaning and the testing and the nursing, we obviously are doing a healthy elements of training for educators, we're funding but $10 million in professional development and disrespect. We want to really enable them to do the best they can. They're not doctors or non-nurses, but just to know the signs or the protocol and to be comfortable in this facing this challenge. So there's a lot we could talk about. I know there's more to talk about even something we announced that I'm not going to get to right now, which is what remote learning that synchronous live learning will look like but we can get to that later. I just want to assure you that if the evidence changes because it is literally it is emerging. It's not it's, you know, the evidences and in some respects that can even change over Time, we will respond to the risk profile and to the advice of our medical community to one thing Ontario has done to date under our government. Premier Ford is we've just been listening to the medical community every step of the way. It's not a coincidence, folks, that we are literally the light in the darkness when it comes to how incredible Ontario has done in flattening the curve we have here to public health advice, its government, but really, it's you To be fair, not us, that has followed it and done amazing work and sacrifice dramatically to find the curve and by doing so as a consequence of your sacrifice and your responsibility as a citizen. We have trend a transmission level, we're for the past seven or eight odd days there are under 100 in a population of 14 point 7 billion people and protesting 20 to 30,000 a day. I mean, the risk is not abstract. It's all in relation to what the community transmission is. And that is an amazing sign. It should build confidence that we're doing the right thing even as we are in stage three. As we've liberalized the ability of people to do stuff, we're still seeing that Finding of the curve that is a good sign. It also requires us to stay vigilant and requires us to really double down on our efforts because we know what's at risk. Our children, you know, your children, my nieces, but our collective kids, their education could be in peril unless we continue to very deliberately follow public health advice in the context of all the requests on hygiene and masculine distancing, etc. So I am supported, the plane is supported by the Chief Medical Officer it is endorsed, he would not support it if it wasn't safe. I have family in the in the education system and family going to school and teaching as I mentioned, and personal I want to get this right. And I think every week we've systematically been just elevating our investments, doing more and listening to the advice adding more layers of prevention to make this safe for the staff, but then, of course for the kids.



Dr. Karim Kurji Remark:

Thank you very much for having invited me here. And thank you both the member of provincial Parliament easy way, and to minister Lecce for your kind words. So in your region, we have actually seen through the collective efforts of so many individuals, and indeed the public in particular, we have seen a reduction in the incidence of COVID-19. Now, let me explain this for a second. When we talk about the incidents having been reduced, in this case, it's about 300,000 per week, what we really mean is that the risk of acquiring COVID-19 in the community has diminished greatly. So we are in a much better position now than we ever have been. So by corollary that chances of having outbreaks in a school setting or in a church or any other setting, so diminishes at this point in time. You know, we have about one community care setting that is an outbreak mode in one workplace setting. This is an outbreak mode. But we are testing more than 1100 individuals a day and this is done through the partnership with our hospital assessment centers. And the positivity rate is, is very low. Now it's at about point 5%. This is way, way better than what you see south in the United States, and where we were previously, which was around 5%. Now, the issue of returning our students back to school is something that the experts are relatively unanimous on. I mean, whether you look at the Canadian pediatric society, or whether you look at the American Academy of Pediatrics All of them seem to suggest that really we do have to find a way forward for our children to go back to school so that they can continue to benefit with respect to social development with respect to relationship with their peers and mental health issues. We have had long standing partnerships with the school boards in your region. And we have had a lot of experience with respect to contact management, contact tracing and case management say with cases of purchases measles, and of course we have the immunization programs in the grade seven grades. We have also been implementing the immunization of the school pupil set. So we have long standing relationships with the school boards, including the French speaking schools as well as the private schools. And we have a Healthy Schools program where which when the schools closed We were able to redeploy the public health nurses there into the COVID-19. area. And those nurses now extremely experienced both with respect to case management, context tracing, as well as outbreak management. And those are the very nurses who are really going to be supporting the schools. As we go through this transitional phase where we return students back to schools. Generally speaking, the proportion of children who get COVID-19 tends to be around 5%. in your region, it's about 4.7%. And most of the students in your region is the figure is just over 80% haven't really acquired it from close contacts. And these close contacts are usually household contacts. And we do know that children do not seem to be suffering from severe outcomes. They seem to change Get mild disease, usually cough fever and sore throat, and they tend to recover. And the studies elsewhere seem to suggest that they that children under the age of 10 tend not to be transmitting infections as much. And they don't seem to be as many school outbreaks. And one of the things that we had observed was before the schools closed, we had no measures in place, and the curve was going upwards, but we didn't see any school outbreaks then. So with all the measures in place that have been articulated by the Ministry of Education planning, which include a whole host of things, which you're very familiar with, including things like cohorting, masking, screening, and of course, the case management and contact tracing, outbreak management if they happen to be any outbreaks, as well as the general principles of physical distancing. Good Hands, hygiene, you know, should really keep up with children quite safe. And as the minister has pointed out, the Chief Medical Officer of health has provided input to the various tables that exist in the public health system. There's the public health measures table, where we have experts from across the medical sort of spectrum, who have actually been assisting with respect to giving their expertise and advice in console to the Chief Medical Officer of health. And we work as a system as a whole. Wherever we disagree with anything, you know, we make it evident and we communicate this through our ministries, EEOC, and other processes. We have tremendous communications between us in the province. And so we are in agreement with a plan that has been put forward and we will continue to work closely with the school boards to ensure that the implementations of these plants are done in our in the safest possible way. Now that having been saved, it is inevitable that we may actually get perhaps one or two outbreaks, hopefully not more. But that is inevitable. But with experience that we've now had with respect to managing outbreaks, we should be able to get these under control very quickly. So, again, it is a necessary stage with respect to safeguarding our children's mental health and social development and educational development that we need to take the step. And we are at a stage in the community where levels have really gone down drastically. And we hope that those levels will continue to be maintained to the vigilance that the minister has said, we do need to have. So thank you once again, and we'll be happy to take questions at the right time.



Question 1:

What's the plan if any student or teacher is found with COVID, how we will communicate and who will be communicated, how to manage the learning for impact student who will have to stay home to continue the learning.


Answer 1

(Minister Lecce)

Thank you all started out and I may turn to Dr. Kurji for some of the medical protocol. When and if a student is has any symptoms within a class the immediate action the training of the educator and of the principal will be to isolate that child from the class. There will be there's already space set aside within the Schools and like extra in salary space like a library, etc that will could be used for individual quarantine, if you will. Well, the administration principal's immediate action is to inform the parent is to call the local health officer. So doctor coach's office, in this case for New York for us, all of us who live in your region. And likewise, to inform the school board immediately of that channel of that symptom. The next action is for the parents to pick up the child removed them from the class, and based on the local health authority, they may be required to be tested, and then isolated. For Children according to the protocol that have that, for example, you know, maybe in a class with other with children that have symptoms, they'll be required to isolate for 24 hours and if there's no symptoms for them, they'd be permitted back into the school. And likewise, in the context of the general protocol as it's being developed, it's being really developed through the lens of management's minimize the impact on schools, which is why we speak about cohorting, which is fairly foundational to our success to limits the ability of a cloud. When I say quarter century, a group of kids, you know, 20 Kids 25. Remember that number is in high schools in our in our community be no more than 15. You could use that as an example, that 15 group where we understand basically emerging evidence so far, what we understand is there's a higher rate of transmission amongst older students. And again, this this evidence can change over towards to date is that amongst older students, there's a higher rate of transmission that therefore the decision by the government wants to say, look in those higher risk communities, we're going to, we're going to enforce a maximum in those classes. And more importantly, we're going to make an adaptive when students are not in school, especially in the adaptive model. They're expected to be provided with all my learning, and the context of a remote learning experience led by their teacher and I my Express In the context of that experience for students who opt for to have remote learning is that it is live. It is synchronous, meaning it's live. It's a zoom style educational experience, like we're doing today, with the teacher and in front of you, and we'll talk more about that a bit later. But the point is that the child is forced to is asked to isolate at home for a day, or for a prolonged period of time, the teacher in the class would be required to work with the child to make sure that they continue to get updates information and really access to the curriculum so that they're not left behind, or they're not further behind in the curriculum when they return, hopefully, 24 hours later, but potentially as many as 14 days later.


(Dr. Kurji)

Minister Lecce, I mean, you did an excellent job of articulating many of the steps so the only additional area Every day, it would be that our public health nurses are very skilled with respect to contact tracing. And so if it were a child who is Mr. Lecce aide would then have been isolated and gone home. Then the next thing would be our public health nurses would be connecting with the school and trying to find out who else might have actually been in close contact with this child, we would first be essentially looking at the status of the child because the child we would encourage calls for testing if we felt that a child had COVID-19 like symptoms, and should the child be positive, I mean, that's the time when we would normally be taking more of an aggressive role with respect to identifying all the context and getting the close context you know, to go into self-isolation, impossible as testing as well. Let me explain what we mean by close contact. So if you happen to be a high school student, and you have been physically distancing properly and you've been wearing masks, and assuming that that sick child was in that sort of category, it is highly unlikely that the child would actually have any close contacts. So with a little bit of care, we may actually be able to avoid the self-isolation of more than just the individual case. And the others may have to monitor themselves for symptoms and signs, you know, for 14 days but could actually continue in the class. And this is the beauty of following the physical distancing rules and with respect to the younger children, when it comes to the physical distancing site and I understand with Minister Lecce announcement this afternoon, there will be greater latitude given to the ports. To try and promote on physical distancing. However, the recommendations of the Hospital for Sick kid document was that about a meter of distance be placed between children. And many of the studies seem to suggest that 85% of infections can actually be prevented with a one meter distance and the remainder 85% when you're increased the second meter, so, there is actually every likelihood that the infections may not necessarily spread particularly given all the other measures in place good hand hygiene in masking and other measures in place. So, should the situation escalate and you know, you start getting more cases, then we will we would have to handle this like we normally do with any other setting and we plot the epidemic curves. We visit the Setting with respect to giving more Infection Prevention and Control advice if we make some observations as to what else could be improved, and they may have to be additional measures that may have to be taken. But I would be very surprised if those measures resulted in a whole school being closed at any given time. Thank you.


Question 2:

In regard online learning. Just see from the opening registration email, that student will be able to engage in online learning, including real time live session. I wonder how much percentage of the online learning will be a real time live session. We had the real time live session before the big but it was only 30 minutes per week.


Answer 2: (Minister Lecce)

Absolutely. But what I can say to you is that the lesson in the voice of parents on the issue of live synchronous learning has been clear. No, no, we say synchronous, essentially, I mean, a live zoom style experience. Just and if I don't say that, again, know that I mean this type of learning where you've got your class, you've got your kids in front of you, the teacher, and maybe the additional the A or additional staff in the school, in the classroom and they're together. And they're providing a sense of community. And they're able to challenge each other and laugh together and sort of, you know, answer questions together and have group chats together. I mean, look, it is perhaps not the same. And I would submit it's not the same as in class, but it is better than nothing, which is what we largely had to contend with in the spring, which was unacceptable as a as a an uncle, with the kids in the system and more so simply as a taxpayer, we just have to aspire for a bit more. And I heard parents we all heard parents Daisy, Gila, Michael Tibollo, Michael Parsa, Logan, I mean, every member of one of us. I've called Caroline Mulroney, we just all heard the concern. It was standardized, it was consistent, and that it was you know, there's always a story of my one daughter has an N Every day is doing live learning and my son got an email. And that doesn't seem right or fair. And I agree. So we have absolutely scaled up this the first principle is Ontario's The only province in Canada to offer parents a choice. You know, many provinces just don't have the capacity or maybe didn't have the foresight to look for an online learning remote option. So it's you go to school or you get home schooled effectively, or giving you that option of a live lead educational experience. With respect to the question on percentages. Today, I announced that the problem is what I wasn't able to say at the beginning, but I'm happy we're getting here because for those parents that choose remote learning, and you know, perhaps will be a minority and not all but it's your choice and we respect that full stop. The expectation of direction the minimum standard is that each day, there's a 300 minute day in schools every day of instruction on official education of those 300 minutes from grade one to 12 must be a minimum of 75% must be live synchronous learning. Full stop minimum Now we've left a bit of a buffer to be fair because, you know, one on one requirements, small group. So you want to allow the educator to maybe there's a one on one with a child needs a bit more time, that's normally the discretion you would do in class anyway. But the minimum is 75%. That's a clear expectation. It's not something that you can interpret differently. It is what is required by the Ministry of Education. And it is what we will enforce with school boards. There's no exceptions built in. That's what we want for kindergarten, we're talking about, you know, a four year old, sometimes very young children. They're required a minimum of 50%. And that's just largely based on the assumption it's really tough to keep a child sitting in a seat who's four years old, you know, for five or six hours for many hours a day that's perhaps impractical. But again, it's the minimum standard. If it can be done more, the parents wanted, the kids are behaviorally able to adjust all the power to the educator and of course, to those parents to raise that standard. But that's what we will expect now. We also will give the right of the ability of the For the first time in Ontario, we're announcing about $18 million in investment to hire principals, you may say, why do we need more principals. In short, I want to ensure parents have a point of contact if you have concerns with that experience, but you actually have an accountability measure to go to the principal, if we didn't hire these principals, you'd have the principal responsible for a school of four or 500 kids in class, and then a school of maybe 300 online. And then you really you liquidate the ability, or you undermine the ability of that principal to really add value to provide that accountability. I think that's important. And I mean that constructively I mean, you know, most of these are teams, they work well together, they support each other when it comes to the staff in schools. But you know, you do need a manager in space in place to ensure an element of accountability. That's the basis of that hire the recruiting principals from virtual schools, and that will really strengthen the ability of learning we're also ensuring this September every high school will have internet in it high speed internet and for those students that Remote learning or may want to choose remote learning but because of you know economics you may not have a laptop or internet we provided school boards with significant increase in funds to buy more iPads, more laptops, including with internet and some I mean I negotiated with Rogers and Bell through the CEOs some months ago a very low cost high impact solution to that gap that exists and look there are families that that may not happen and that's okay you will not be given the truth as a second class person you deserve the rights to consider this at this the right solution remote learning for your family based on whatever circumstance it may be beat they may be predicated on. So those resources are in place as well. And I hope that gives confidence that the day will be better final thought I'm so sorry, Michael. Is the parents have asked me Look where they said to me in the summer we were consulting and I spoke to Daisy about this. We did zooms actually many times at home that feedback was like I like the remote learning option. But if I want to put my child back in school in the rich school Can I do that? It wasn't part of the original plan. But then parents sort of said, Look, that would be an amazing advantage. Maybe we start remote, and then we go back in later on, I wouldn't have that choice. We're giving you that choice. In fact, we're directing school boards respectfully, when I say directing, officially or collaborating with them, they've been working very hard and they're doing an impossible task. But you know, we're giving them requiring school boards that the least one re-entry time for your child. So you start your kid your children off in September, let's say remote learning online, they're part of the live learning synchronous are great, at least one point between now and the end of the semester. So essentially, between now and Christmas, you'll have the choice to re-enter your child should you want to, or you keep them in remote learning for the remainder of the year. That's the flexibility the value added we have in Ontario that I'm proud of. I recognize those imperfections and that we need to keep building upon it and scaling it up. But that is a really unique reality for Ontario when there's a lot of parents I think in the country who have said we want Ontario is planted because they like the choices we're providing Parents and I recognize folks, putting 2 million kids in a congregate care setting comes with massive challenges and it's not going to be easy. But I think what the can do spirit and with, with optionality for parents and with adhering to the public health advice, we can do this.



Question 3:

How does a staggered recess look like? We'll get will there be any concrete physical barriers to limit physical contact with children not belonging to the same cohort?


Answer 3:

(Minister Lecce)

School boards are given instruction and guidance on separating those cohorts in class. I mean, thankfully, many of our schools particularly York Region, to be fair, you know, they're usually on large parcels of land, we actually have requirements on how big the acreage has to be. So we will be staggering recesses we're going to be staggering school bus times will be staggering start times and end times. I mean, fundamentally, friends, everything is changing in September. I mean, the fundamentals are there. Your child's in front of the class. They're learning the general curriculum. They're in Britain. Motor school but everything will sort of in small or sometimes large ways they will change. So to the question In short, the answer is yes, everything will be adjusted school board to take the initiative right now, to make those edits of those augmentations. With the, again, going back to the first principle limiting contact with other cohorts. So, you know, buses will leave a bit earlier in the may arrive into later like, and I get it, it's, it's, it's annoying, it's quite frank, it's, it's, it's annoying, but it's necessary. I mean, we're just trying to literally mitigate the idea of one court interacting with another court because to Dr. Kurji's point about moderate management, if they are separated, we maintain the integrity of that separation. We won't have to close a school we could be very nimble and narrow casting just that school, that classroom or maybe even that just have one child, of course, based on the public health, recommendation and environmental reality on the ground. So in short, they are cafeterias. You know, we're not you know, we're not children are on cafeterias that can be you know, in the classroom, the To eat together play together, but from a developmental perspective, and Dr. Kurji may have an opinion on the mental health elements of this, I just want to get this out there. A lot of kids have anxiety right now. And I'm and I will turn defer to Dr. Kurji's the medical authority, my observation from what I'm hearing from a variety of perspectives, including sick kids. Kids are anxious, the parents are anxious and we're all anxious. But the kids have maybe a heightened level of social isolation. And from a developmental perspective, it is really important they get back to school, but it's also important they have access to mental health resources if they need it. And I think really working to D stigmatize it, but also to talk to children to talk, you know, as no parents will be doing, about the importance of, you know, expressing themselves if they feel a bit unsure or anxious or concerned that we're stepping up the mental health supports in schools, we added another $25 million to hire more psychologists and psycho therapists and social workers because we just understand as a basic principle that you know, they need to not be Waiting in line to get access to these mental health supports in the local health authority with Dr. Kurji. His team, they work very hard providing a provision of health care locally with our local hospitals. We benefit in New York to have the first next new hospital being built in Vaughan and the Mackenzie bond hospital, which will be very, very positive to improve access to health care. And I'm proud that we're getting that done. But the bottom line is, mental health is important. It's foundational, and we're making sure those resources are in place. Dr. Kurji, anything you'd like to add in that point? Maybe especially for the context of accessing those resources in New York? Sure.


(Dr. Kurji)

In fact, you have stressed exactly what the authorities you know, many of the August bodies have been stressing and what they have actually been observing. The scopes are so very important for a child's well-being. There are also areas that we may not have necessarily recognized that occurs in schools in our teachers tend to recognize problems when they when they develop it. To an early enough stage and provide the appropriate referrals for folks that may have been having certain cognitive challenges or other challenges with respect to learning. So there is a, there is a whole spectrum of activities that are beneficial to students when they are in a school environment. And your point is very well taken about following public health principles, the principles of cohorting, the principles of physical distancing, good hand hygiene. And if we were to follow these principles and given with the declining incidence of COVID-19 in our communities, remember that when an individual goes today for testing, even though they may actually be symptomatic for COVID-19 only point 5% seem to come back as positive. And that is very good news. So the chances are when a child develops some sort of symptoms of COVID-19 the chances are that they will probably Not at COVID-19 if the current incidence figures continue, but you know, we still want to take all sorts of precautions and want to ensure that we don't slip up anywhere. Because we know that COVID-19 has a way of getting back and biting us, as you're seeing now with the Western provinces. And you're seeing in many of the states in the US, thank you.


Question 4:

What will be the roles of nurses who describe their work?


Answer 4

(Minister Lecce)

So I've been working very closely with minister Christine Elliott, the deputy Premier, the Minister of Health, also member from Newmarket, Aurora for any constituents on Today on our York Region colleague and Deputy Premier, and I have been breaking down silos like government hasn't seen because we've been able to really embed public health with education and we have one table One dialogue and sort of one vision, which is just maximize safety and utilize the strength of our public health authorities and put them into our schools. Now, Dr. Kurji rightfully pointed out, there are already our public health nurses that are trained in infection prevention, that do this every day, we're just building it up in a pretty significant way. And we're going to be utilizing those capacities, sort of SWAT teams, if you want to send them in where there is needs. The principal, the work related to the mandate of those prints of those nurses will be to support screening, testing, and symptom relief. I mean, if there's a you know, in addition to training, by the way, I mean, having that level of support on site will only help the principal how to do this impossible task of figuring out is this is that the sniffles or is that COVID and rendering the flu season so I mean, that's going to be really important. That's why unique It's a unique advantage from trio but I would argue it's stuck. It's just fundamental to getting this right. adhering to the experts, which would be that we know or a nurse or obviously a doctor or someone from the Health Authority. That's the broad vision for what they will do where there is competence will be.


(Dr. Kurji)

Let In fact, you've covered many of the really salient points there. In addition to that, our nurses already collaborating and they had actually already been collaborating with the school boards, because many of them have any questions, they have questions about running the whatever it is that they wish to implement, you know, with public health. And so, they have been guiding them through the implementation side, you know, bearing in mind the principles that public health has been advocating, then, of course, you know, should we actually have a case that will require some expert contact tracing and subsequent management of the context and again, our nurses, just like they have been In the long term care homes and they have done in many workplace settings, have all experienced now. And our public health inspectors would also be going into those places, should it be necessary to provide more of the infection prevention and control observations in training. And we are also hiring other public health nurses with skills in infection prevention and control. So should there actually be any outbreak in particular, you know, we will be able to work very closely with the schools and, and the parents and you know, help manage that. We are committed to transparency, and as we have been in the past with respect to long term care homes or workplaces, and again, we're just exploring ways whereby we can be relatively transparent, so that you know, parents are aware of any situations that may actually be existing in any given school. setting to the extent that it is possible for them to get a little reassured and be informed on the progress. Now having stated that, you know, I am not expecting too many outbreaks if all the measures have been taken. And we are trying to make it as safe as possible for the children to return back to school. And please don't forget that many of our staff have children themselves. So they have skin in the game as well.


(Minister Lecce)

What are the signs parents should look for? You know, we're entering the flu season influences around the corner. A few Thursday's ago, two weeks ago I called the Minister of Education New South Wales, Australia, which you may Find a curious use of my time, but it was actually super helpful. She told me she's the minister in Australia, who is now being hit by influenza because you know, their winters now, we have the opposite seasons really important to learn lessons from foreign jurisdictions. And her big emphasis to me, among many others, like the merits of masking was the importance of vaccination. Now, I don't mean in the context of, you know, potentially a vaccine for COVID, I mean, just for basic vaccines required for influenza. Could you elaborate on that as a as a proactive step every parent should take? Should they be comfortable, obviously, that for vaccines, but for the majority of parents that will do that, why that's important and what the signs are and how you can differentiate between a cold and I'm not sure it's as easy as saying it in 20 seconds, but the nuance between the cold and the flu is versus COVID. And if there's any tips you can give parents given that they're really on the front lines of screening for the kids.


(Dr. Kurji)

Those questions are very important so unfortunately it's going to be very difficult to distinguish between the influenza, a call and COVID-19. We have symptoms of COVID-19, which we've listed on our website,, and there is a particular section there, which goes into a lot of details with respect to 19, children, but amongst the symptoms would be fever of 37.8 degrees or greater, and new, or worsening cough, shortness of breath, sore throat, or difficulty swallowing altered taste, taste, sensation, or smell, nausea, vomiting or diarrhea, abdominal pain or runny nose or nasal congestion. So you can see that all of these symptoms you know could very well be mimicked, either way by influenza or by a common cold and the distinction is going to be difficult. So this is why it is so important. If you know everybody gets in the United States, unless they have some medical contract contradiction, or contraindications. The other reason why we want to ensure that folks getting the United States as you always say is that we need to keep our hospitals and healthcare facilities available in case we need to be patient with COVID-19 in the event of a second wave occurring. Now, there is universal immunization for influenza in our communities and the more people who get vaccinated, less difficult it will be for us to distinguish between COVID-19 and influenza because if you're happy vaccinated against influenza this can be less likelihood of having cancer. So those are important points and remember I'm a public health nurses will be there to assist and hold all the hands of anyone who needs assistance in that respect. And then there are in fact the assessment centers where there are physicians who make the assessment as to whether an individual is COVID-19, or whether they have something else, and the testing is probably the best way for us to find out, and the test results come back fairly quickly these days, usually within two days at most.


Question 5:

We will tackle the issue of school bus running at full capacity. So how can students do social distancing on school bus.


Answer 5: (Minister Lecce)

Well, first off, schools, students will be required to wear masks on school bus and will be mandatory. And that is important. The second is that school bus, the number of children on a school bus will be reduced the direction we followed. According to the federal government's guidelines on transportation and we've consulted Metrolinx, which is an agency of government about their best practices according to the science is that we will have one child, per seat, unless they are siblings so if there are no children living in the same home there could be two kids together on one seat if you will normally don't know could be more. Whereas if they're not, there are different masks and they're required to be alone on that seat, yes that will mean more buses were drivers and no more logistical challenges but the reality is we have taken action to reduce the quantity of children on the bus we've made it masking we've added $40 million in next new investments for cleaning of all high contact points, not just you know the handles but even the leather on the seats, everything constantly for two rounds. We're providing a full PP expensive not just a mask but really anything that the driver may request often these are older drivers so we're concerned about their health as well as regular full suite of access to pee pee provided by the government by the school boards funded by department and Recycling's class times, as noted we're changing the you know the context of when start, and late at schools ends and that'll allow you know different logistics and planning, but it'll mean less, sort of, you know, kind of convening on the front of class when the bell goes off as Elisa went off in 2019, wherever it was her Russia, and try to get to the boss or maybe to the parents. We also heard, just the early survey results that there will be less parents using busing I mean sometimes we'll be, we'll have to use busing specifically for some of our constituents in more rural parts of the region. And as I say the cleaning is of as increased the tip is provided and masks are required for the students, and likewise for the staff, a bus driver and actions are taken on staging of classes. So that's really how we're dealing with it. In the towel we're increasing the layer protection when it comes to policy but as I say, the pressure may be reduced based on past years that's a choice of parents school boards out in New York, they have public and Catholic have survey to understand what those needs are and to make sure that there's a sufficient capacity to get these students home in school.



Question 6:

ESL class, we'll be able to tell me that in our ESL classes in the classroom in the fall.


Answer 6 (Minister Lecce)

adult education. In short, the aim of school boards is to provide as many of these, you know, of all forms of learning as possible ESL is important and of course we value the. The work that school boards do for adult education, I mean I say this with a great level of humility, my parents were both immigrants country. And I understand the importance of language development. And so when I can to simply assert to you is that school boards will make the decision, you know in my capacity as the Minister of Education for 2 million kids, a bit more macro and micro I know a lot of people want to know. But look, the instinct is to try to provide as many of these services and educational opportunities as possible. And if they can to work with community partners, just to make sure that there's someone that can help provide it. I mean look the core focus for this year is making sure your children are in class learning the curriculum and safe. Full stop. It may require us as we are, you know, having to address some of the extracurricular or maybe not doing the trips that are on this year or things like that. Maybe not. Maybe you'll be permitted. It's an exceptional year. And so, things aren't changing but I think what we're trying to do as well as try to create a sense of normalcy for the kids, and give them a bit of optimism that go and go back to see their friends or so be able to play and learn and be inquisitive and being a safe space with nutritional programs and mental health supports and access technology for those that have, you know come from lower economic means and so what I can say to folks out there is that when it comes to broader message inside in every area, we have ensure that we're taking action, not just to improve the experience but to de risk the circumstance and the environment for the child and for the staff, and we're going to continue to do that and expect to hear more as we scale up our plan right into September and beyond, because the challenges are changing the research is evolving. The risk is not linear, even in your region from bottom to East Dwillimbury it's not the same, you know, right I'm surmising based on data I used to say I saw a couple weeks ago Dr. Kurji, but my point is, you know, it's not it's not the wrist football soccer scene in this region, let alone in this massive province, and so that notion of latitude is going to be a strength and it's respected.



MPP Daisy Wai Remark

Thank you. First of all, I just want to say thank you to our ministry minister okay for, follow me for being with us tonight but for all the hard work and listening to our parents, and of course, thank you to our doctor, Dr. Kurji, we rely on your suggestion and your employees who look up to you and if there is any concerns we'll come back and ask you, I have to. I have to appreciate, in particular, to local trustees, especially to the ones that are here with us tonight. We have Trustee Allan Tam and Trustee Ron Lynn. And not only are you here with us tonight. Because I know that you have a lot of work ahead of you working with the teachers working with the principals working with the ministry, to make sure we just mentioned is all covered. And I would like to address to the teachers and to the parents who are here today. I asked what I mentioned earlier, I know that even if we have a few days we will not be able to address each one of you with all your questions. I am thankful and I know that we have to big topic tonight because we have 1000 people joining us tonight, to the extended like I have even extend expand my, the number of attendees and 1000 is all I can put in. So I apologize and I cannot let each one of you speaking up, but we are listening, we are listening to what you have written to us. It will be distributed to each MPP in your own writing, they will contact you and then show it to me, even though, not the specific questions are being asked. But in their answers I thank you who administer and talk to you for you, very thorough answers. Sure you answer cover a lot of aspects and they would have already got the questions industry. So, we will still continue to be working with all of you. And the thing I remember, Minister saying that, yes, we are all in high society. I'm anxious as well as grandchildren, and I'm concerned how they will be reacting and I told myself, and society is not we do this will really help me know the people that I care for the best thing is just to relax, and do our bash. And as with the doctor reminders, watching on his social distance is insane wearing masks. those standard things are what we have to do. And let's just put our heads together and face this challenge together with, not with anxiety, but with peace, and knowing that we are here to count on each other's support. Thank you all for joining us tonight. Okay, thank you. Good evening to you all.