Kitchener-Waterloo

Students 'major players' in getting Waterloo region through COVID-19: Dr. Hsiu-Li Wang

As students prepare for a return to in-person learning on Monday, the region's medical officer of health thanked them for following public health rules and doing what they could to prevent the spread of COVID-19.

'It's because of you that schools in general have been low risk environments for transmission'

Region of Waterloo medical officer of health Dr. Hsiu-Li Wang, seen here getting her first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine in April 2021, says students have sacrificed a lot during the pandemic and she thanked them for their efforts to keep schools safe. (Photo provided by Region of Waterloo Public Health)

As students prepare for a return to in-person learning Monday morning, the region's medical officer of health thanked them for all they've done during the pandemic.

Dr. Hsiu-Li Wang says students have given up a lot because of COVID-19, but they've been resilient in doing so.

"I hear very heartwarming stories about students who are really great models in wearing their masks and following the rules that they're asked to follow," Wang said Friday during a media briefing.

"It's because of you that schools in general have been low-risk environments for transmission," she said. 

Wang added the various layers of protection within the classroom including masking, physical distancing, washing of hands and air quality are what make it safe to return to school.

"We've seen throughout this pandemic that schools have been an area where there's been a lower risk of transmission," she said, noting that's also been the case at daycares.

"You've been a major player in helping our community through this and I really want to thank them very much for that," Wang said in a message to students.

Benefits of reopening outweigh risks

Face-to-face learning is important for students, families and the community, Dr. Nicola Mercer, the CEO and medical officer of health for Wellington-Dufferin-Guelph Public Health, said in an open letter to the community.

"The return to in-person learning will affect every child and family differently. Whether you and your family choose to attend, or not to attend, in-person classes, please use trusted sources to help guide your decision," Mercer said.

Mercer said she felt the "benefits of reopening in-person learning ultimately outweigh the short-term risks" of the Omicron variant because school offers resources like food security and safety along with educational and social experiences for students.

In her own message to students, Region of Waterloo Chair Karen Redman asked that people be respectful of the decisions others make at this time.

"Every family is going to make decisions for what's right for their family, and we need to be kind to each other. So if your best friend's family made a different decision than your family made, that's OK," she said. 

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