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York Region school board following health officials' lead on coronavirus amid calls for action

More than 8,000 parents from dozens of York Region schools have signed petition asking for more stringent rules on coronavirus
Jan. 28, 2020
Dina Al-Shibeeb

York Region District School Board has "no additional action" beyond what schools "normally do during this flu season" for dealing with Wuhan novel coronavirus.

"We follow all the advice of York Region public health," YRDSB spokesperson Licinio Miguelo said.

So far, York Region public health has not advised schools to take any different steps.

"Last week, we sent information home to parents from public health:," Miguelo said.

York Catholic District School Board is taking the same route as YRDSB.

"We are working closely with our public health partners to monitor the situation in China and ensure a safe environment for everyone in our schools," YCDSB director of education Ab Falconi said.

On Jan. 27, Ontario public health officials reported a second presumptive case of the new coronavirus. The second case is the wife of the man who became the first case of the illness in Canada.

So far, officials said in a press conference that 15 people have been tested and found to be negative of the coronavirus, 19 are under investigation, and the wife of the man who has been identified with the coronavirus has presumptive ‘asymptomatic” case and is being “regularly checked on.”

“We don’t know if these people are in the same flight,” Dr. David Williams, the province's chief medical officer, told journalists.

The officials also clarified that the couple have no children enrolled in any schools.

With calls for a travel ban, Dr. Williams said, “We rest” on the advice of the World Health Organization on banning travel to Wuhan or China. He also said China has already “strict rules” in place when it comes to travel on the affected area.

Petition urges action

As of Jan. 27, more than 8,000 signatures were collected urging action to prevent the coronavirus from reaching schools in York Region.

In the petition, the parents said: "York region has a large Chinese-Canadian population. There were a lot of people travelling to China before or during the Chinese New Year. We cannot be overly cautious in protecting our children."

The petition requests that the school board asks students and families who travelled to China to report it to the school and their classroom teacher, and that the school tracks the status of the students.

It also asks the school board to request that students who recently returned from China, or whose families did, stay at home and keep isolated for a minimum of 17 days for the purpose of self-quarantine.

Thirdly, the petition asks that students be allowed to wear respirator masks during school.

Lukewarm response?

On Jan. 26, Ontario Health Minister Christine Elliott and Education Minister Stephen Lecce issued a statement in response to the first presumptive case of the Wuhan novel coronavirus in Ontario following a briefing of the province's directors of education.

"Ontario continues to work directly alongside our partners at the Public Health Agency of Canada and local public health units to monitor the situation closely," the provincial government said. "Newly strengthened protocols for identification and control are working to keep the public safe.

"We want to assure students, parents and school communities that officials at the Ministry of Health and the Ministry of Education are working together in close co-operation with our partners in both the education and health care sectors to ensure the continued safety and well-being of students and staff."

Ontario has also launched a dedicated webpage to help educate Ontarians about Wuhan novel coronavirus, how they can protect themselves and what to do if they suspect they may be at risk.