Closing schools should be a last resort only when there’s community spread of COVID-19: IWK’s head of pediatrics

HALIFAX – The IWK Health Center’s chief of pediatrics has informed the province of Nova Scotia that closing schools can adversely affect the health and well-being of children and should only be done as a last resort.

Dr. Andrew Lynk, chief of pediatrics at the IWK Health Center, said research examining how schools have dealt with the COVID-19 pandemic shows it’s best to keep them open unless the new coronavirus gets spread through the community .

“When that community spread starts to kick in, we’re moving into a mixed model, and as it gets higher, we’re moving into online learning,” Lynk told CTV Atlantic’s Steve Murphy on Tuesday.

He said this a day after the county closed schools in the Halifax area and just hours after a county lockdown was announced – including all public and private schools.

“I’m a little surprised we went all over the county, but I’m sure there are reasons for that,” said Lynk. “The best place for children to be when there is no community is at school.”

Lynk says that’s where they learn the best and get all the support they need, and that’s especially true for kids with special needs or medical issues.

“If it only lasts for two weeks, then I’m sure we can do it, but schools should be the last to close,” Lynk said.

Many children depend on schools, he said, for mental health care, a hot lunch, and other forms of support.

“Schools are also early warning systems for children who may be abused,” said Lynk, noting that the number of child abuse cases rose during the pandemic.

When asked what parents should tell young children about why they stay at home, he recommended being honest with them.

He also said they could be encouraged to assist in the fight against COVID-19.

“By masking, washing their hands and keeping their distance, they can be part of this effort to get rid of this virus,” Lynk said.

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