CMO defends reopening of schools in Grenada

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School children in Grenada (File Photo)

Chief Medical Officer, Dr. Shawn Charles, recommends the reopening of schools in Grenada, saying there is no justification for not allowing children to return to the classroom as normal.

In a statement, Dr. Charles also said that a return to “normal distance for school children in this setting would not carry additional risk,” given that there is currently no community spread of the coronavirus (COVID-19) here.

“The focus at this time should be on educating everyone, and staff and students, adhering to the recommended hygienic measures, which include mask-wearing and sanitization,” Dr. Charles said, noting that “since research has shown that staff will be the most likely source of infection for other staff members, attention should be given to ensuring their compliance with the health protocols.”

He said that the justification for returning to normal distancing at schools is based on several measures, including the World Health Organization (WHO), providing a summary of research on COVID-19 in children and schools.

Based on the research, he said that infection in children generally causes mild disease and that serious illness due to COVID-19 is seen only “infrequently.

“Young children seem to have lower susceptibility to infection compared to adults, with susceptibility generally increasing with age. Current evidence from contact tracing and cluster investigations also suggest that children are less likely than adults to be the main transmitters of infection.”

In his statement, Dr. Charles noted that studies in educational settings suggest that the introduction of the virus generally started with infected adults.

“Staff-to-staff transmission was more common than staff-to-student transmission, and student-to-student transmission was rare.  A clear causal role for schools in community resurgence has currently not been demonstrated.

“Overall, most evidence from countries that have reopened schools or never closed them suggests that schools have not been associated with significant increases in community transmission.  Risk of an outbreak in schools and other settings where young people congregate is determined in large part by the background community transmission and settings-linked risk amplifiers.”

He said that as it relates to Grenada, the “current epidemiological status with regards to COVID-19 remains safe, despite there being one or more cases that are imported. There is no evidence of community spread of the disease”.

He said that the Ministry of Health continues to have good control over the introduction of COVID-19 in Grenada through the aggressive implementation of public health control measures.

“Therefore, in this situation, schools are allowed to open (or re-open) at normal capacity,” Dr. Charles said, noting that according to UNICEF, the adverse effects of school closures on children’s safety, well-being, and learning are well documented. Disruptions to instructional time in the classroom can severely impact a child’s ability to learn.

“Schools are not merely centered on learning. They are also safe havens for many children.  Being out of school also increases the risk of teenage pregnancy, sexual exploitation, violence, and other threat,” the Chief Medical officer said in his statement.

In a statement, Dr. Charles also said that a return to “normal distance for school children in this setting would not carry additional risk,” given that there is currently no community spread of the coronavirus (COVID-19) here.

“The focus at this time should be on educating everyone, and staff and students, adhering to the recommended hygienic measures, which include mask-wearing and sanitization,” Dr. Charles said, noting that “since research has shown that staff will be the most likely source of infection for other staff members, attention should be given to ensuring their compliance with the health protocols.”

He said that the justification for returning to normal distancing at schools is based on several measures, including the World Health Organization (WHO), providing a summary of research on COVID-19 in children and schools.

Based on the research, he said that infection in children generally causes mild disease and that serious illness due to COVID-19 is seen only “infrequently.

“Young children seem to have lower susceptibility to infection compared to adults, with susceptibility generally increasing with age. Current evidence from contact tracing and cluster investigations also suggest that children are less likely than adults to be the main transmitters of infection.”

In his statement, Dr. Charles noted that studies in educational settings suggest that the introduction of the virus generally started with infected adults.

“Staff-to-staff transmission was more common than staff-to-student transmission, and student-to-student transmission was rare.  A clear causal role for schools in community resurgence has currently not been demonstrated.

“Overall, most evidence from countries that have reopened schools or never closed them suggests that schools have not been associated with significant increases in community transmission.  Risk of an outbreak in schools and other settings where young people congregate is determined in large part by the background community transmission and settings-linked risk amplifiers.”

He said that as it relates to Grenada, the “current epidemiological status with regards to COVID-19 remains safe, despite there being one or more cases that are imported. There is no evidence of community spread of the disease”.

He said that the Ministry of Health continues to have good control over the introduction of COVID-19 in Grenada through the aggressive implementation of public health control measures.

“Therefore, in this situation, schools are allowed to open (or re-open) at normal capacity,” Dr. Charles said, noting that according to UNICEF, the adverse effects of school closures on children’s safety, well-being, and learning are well documented. Disruptions to instructional time in the classroom can severely impact a child’s ability to learn.

“Schools are not merely centered on learning. They are also safe havens for many children.  Being out of school also increases the risk of teenage pregnancy, sexual exploitation, violence, and other threat,” the Chief Medical officer said in his statement.

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