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Statement of Support from Local Medical Officers of Health Regarding the Return to School

August 31, 2021 – Hastings, Prince Edward, Kingston, Frontenac, and Lennox & Addington Counties – The Medical Officers of Health from Hastings Prince Edward Public Health (HPEPH) and Kingston, Frontenac, and Lennox & Addington Public Health (KFL&APH) have released a joint statement regarding the upcoming return to in-person learning for students and educators across the region.

We know that the pandemic has been difficult for everyone – but it has been especially difficult for school aged children and their families. We are writing to express our full and enthusiastic support for the return to in-person learning this September. We know many students have missed seeing their teachers and friends, and learning in person can provide multiple mental health and wellness benefits to students and their families. As we return to school in person this fall, public health and school boards will continue to work together to prevent the spread of COVID-19 in schools. We are committed to working together to ensure students, educators, and staff can learn as safely as possible in the classroom environment. With preventive infection control measures continuing in schools, increasing rates of COVID-19 vaccination in our region, and relatively stable rates of COVID-19, we are well positioned to ensure a safe and successful return to in-person learning.  

However, to keep classrooms safe, we must continue our efforts to keep case rates low in our region. While our collective efforts are paying off, the pandemic is not over. Keeping a low rate of infection in our communities is critical to keeping our schools safe.  Parents, guardians, students, educators, school boards, and public health each have a role to play in making the return to school as safe as possible. There are two essential steps you can take to keep our community safe and help keep our students in class this year:

  • Get vaccinated.  Getting vaccinated against COVID-19 is the most effective tool we have to protect ourselves, friends, and family. Vaccines protect us by helping our body build immunity and decreasing our chance of spreading COVID-19 to others. Getting vaccinated is also important for eligible youth. Although youth are less likely to experience serious illness from COVID-19, some young people do get sick and require hospitalization. In addition, youth who are fully vaccinated will not be required to isolate if they are exposed to a positive case of COVID-19, unless they develop symptoms. Our vaccination rates are increasing, but if you aren’t vaccinated, please do your part to help keep our community safe. Most clinics accept walk-in appointments, so find one near you today by visiting hpeph.ca or kflaph.ca.  
  • Stay home if you are sick (and keep your student home if they are sick). If anyone has symptoms of COVID-19, even mild ones, they should stay home and get tested for COVID-19. Even for fully vaccinated individuals, it is important to ensure that symptoms are not the result of a mild case of COVID-19, which you could pass on to others.

These two steps, paired with infection control measures such as frequent hand washing, cleaning, and use of face coverings have proven to be effective at controlling the spread of COVID-19. Because of confidence in these measures, certain in-school restrictions have been modified for September 2021, to help students enjoy some in-person learning experiences that were not permitted in the 2020/2021 school year. See the attached fact sheet for more information about what COVID-19 school protocols will be in place in September 2021. Please do your part to help maintain this progress. 

Together with our school community partners, we look forward to welcoming local students back to school this September.  It will provide immeasurable benefits to the mental and physical well-being of all students and their families. Our students, educators, and staff, deserve the support of all community members to help make this school year as safe as possible. Please do your part to keep yourself, your family, your community, and our schools healthy and safe.

Be well,

Dr. Piotr Oglaza  
Medical Officer of Health and Chief Executive Officer 
Hastings Prince Edward Public Health                                                                                                    

Dr. Hugh Guan
Acting Medical Officer of Health
KFL&A Public Health

Fact Sheet – COVID-19 Precautions in Schools September 2021

HPEPH and KFL&A PH are working with local school communities to welcome your student back to in-person learning this fall! Precautions remain in place to reduce the risk of transmission of COVID-19 in the school setting.  These include:

  • Daily screening, to ensure that any student or staff with symptoms (even those who are vaccinated) will not be permitted to attend school (or sent home if they get sick at school).
  • Testing is recommended for students/staff who have any symptoms of the virus. Individuals who do not seek testing will be required to isolate for a minimum of 10 days.
  • When someone tests positive for COVID-19, public health staff will work with the school to identify and notify individuals who are required to isolate.
  • Enhanced cleaning and distancing will continue, reducing the spread of illness.
  • Cohorting of students indoors will help reduce the number of people exposed to one another in the school setting.


Please remember, the most important thing you can do to help keep schools safe is to screen your student daily for symptoms before they attend school. If your student has any symptoms of COVID-19, they cannot attend school until they receive a negative test result or other medical diagnosis.

For more information, visit: 

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Media Contacts:

Maureen Hyland, Communications Specialist,
mhyland@hpeph.ca

Emily Tubbs, Communications Specialist
etubbs@hpeph.ca

About Hastings Prince Edward Public Health

Hastings Prince Edward Public Health (HPEPH) is a public health agency that serves the counties of Hastings and Prince Edward from four local offices. We monitor the health of our local population, deliver programs and services within our communities, and help develop healthy public policies. We provide information and support in many areas to help improve the health and well-being of our residents. Together with our communities, we help people become as healthy as they can be. For more information, please visit hpePublicHealth.ca. You can also find us on Facebook or follow us on Twitter and Instagram.

We invite community partners and residents to share this Media Release with their respective networks.

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COVID-19 VACCINES IN HPEPH

Children born in 2016 or earlier are now eligible for COVID-19 vaccination! To book an appointment, visit Ontario.ca/book-vaccine. For additional information and resources, visit  hpePublicHealth.ca/covid-19-vaccines-youth.

Individuals turning 12 and over in 2021 who have not yet had a first or second dose, can attend HPEPH walk-in clinics.

Individuals who are eligible for a 3rd dose/booster must book an appointment to receive a vaccine at our clinics.

All eligible individuals can also receive their vaccination at participating local pharmacies. Please visit covid-19.ontario.ca/vaccine-locations for location and registration information.

PROOF OF VACCINATION

Download your proof of vaccination with QR code on the provincial booking site: covid19.ontariohealth.ca.

POTENTIAL EXPOSURE TO COVID-19?

If you are concerned about potential exposure to a positive case of COVID-19, please be reassured that any contacts of a confirmed case will be contacted directly and monitored by public health.

Low-risk and indirect contacts should self monitor for symptoms for 10 days from the time of potential exposure and seek testing if symptoms develop. Low risk contacts do not need to isolate unless symptoms develop, and can continue to attend school/work/daycare while monitoring for symptoms.