Schools, youth left out of Ontario's reopening plan and some say that's not OK
'Enough is enough. They matter. My kids matter. Our kids matter,' says ICU doctor
Ontario's reopening plan doesn't prioritize students or youth and it comes too late, according to an Ottawa physician and a camp director.
Premier Doug Ford announced his three-step reopening plan for the province on Thursday afternoon, allowing outdoor gatherings of five people and reopening some outdoor amenities like golf and tennis this Saturday.
There are zero references to students or schools in the province's roadmap document.
"To think that ... you might golf before you can get kids back at school, to me is troubling," said Dr. Kwadwo Kyeremanteng, an intensive care and palliative care doctor in Ottawa who's a father of three. "This is where I was extremely disappointed [in the plan]."
Kyeremanteng said Ottawa's local COVID-19 case counts, hospitalizations and intensive care admissions continue to go down, while vaccinations are going up — the greater Ottawa region surpassing a million doses in arms this week. Meanwhile, there's been an uptick in suicidal ideation, eating disorders and lack of motivation during the pandemic, associated with youth being stuck at home and unable to go to school and doing activities, he said.
"Enough is enough. They matter. My kids matter. Our kids matter," he said.
Kyeremanteng said while he was encouraged with some aspects of the reopening plan which gives young people ways to stay active — like reopening basketball courts, skate parks and meeting friends — youth are largely left out of the picture with sports leagues, day and overnight camps, and even splash pads slated to come later.
"Who's looking out for our [kids'] best interest[s]? Almost in my son's words: 'can't play hockey, can't play soccer, can't hang out with my friends, I can't go to school,'" he said.
"Open schools. Can we honestly say, in Ottawa right now with the case numbers the way they are, can we justify our kids still not being in school? That's a tough pill for me to swallow."
Plan comes 'way too late': camp
Overnight camps will likely reopen in Step Two of the plan, based on the guidance from the chief medical officer of health during that stage. That will happen when 70 per cent of adults have one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine, and 20 per cent are fully vaccinated — and the earliest this phase can happen is July.
Joanne Cooke, camp director of St. Brigid's Summer Camp, said she made the decision in March to not reopen this summer, due to the uncertainty and lack of answers from authorities.
St. Brigid's is headquartered in Ottawa but runs overnight summer camps in Quebec. It takes a tremendous amount of resources and months of planning to make those camps happen, said Cooke.
Still, she says the reopening plan comes way too late for those in her industry.
"It's heartbreaking ... we really never would have thought we'd be going through a second summer of not being able to have children on site," said Cooke.
Although her camp has had a huge financial hit for the past two years, children are also hugely impacted by this situation, she said.
"There's been so much talk about the mental health of young people and children, and how much they need to get back outside," said Cooke.
"They need camp. They need to get out."