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Local medical officer discusses school-related health issues

DAN CEARNS, The Standard

KAWARTHA LAKES: While many school boards have now adopted optional masking policies for students, Haliburton, Kawartha, Pine Ridge District Health Unit’s medical officer of health Dr. Natalie Bocking is optimistic about the safety of students in schools.

“The key to remember is, we have layers of protection. Another way of framing that is, we have multiple tools we’re using at the same time. Masking is a pretty easy, effective tool we can use at certain times, and certainly the recommendation right now, [which] is for the general public but also applies to families and kids at school, is, once you’re sick, to wear that mask for 10 days after symptoms have started. But we also have additional layers of protection for those time periods in between, including ventilation, vaccination, environmental cleaning and hand hygiene,” Dr. Bocking explained, during a virtual press conference, on Wednesday, September 21st. “I think we’ll see, over the fall, as we see an increase in activity, there might be times where we’ll encourage families to wear masks if they can. And then there’ll be times when virus activity comes back down. I think the key is to be aware and to be supportive, and to be mask friendly.”

With it still being early in the new school year, Dr. Bocking stated, the health unit has “not had any reports from any of our partner school boards related to absenteeism” as of yet. However, she said she “wouldn’t be surprised” if absentee numbers crept up in the autumn, due to both COVID-19 and Influenza.”

Dr. Bocking also sees this school year as an opportunity for children to get caught up on their vaccinations. “We know the pandemic created barriers in accessing many of our routine vaccinations [which] I think we’ve taken for granted for many years. Immunizations against things such as Polio, Measles, Mumps, Rubella and Diphtheria. While these are infectious diseases we don’t often see, thankfully, or have not seen for many, many years, they are ones we could start to see, should we fall too [far] behind in catching up with our immunizations,” she explained.

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