Ottawa's top doctor and mayor say they're disappointed in the province's decision to keep schools closed until September.
At a news conference Wednesday, Premier Doug Ford confirmed students would not be returning to classrooms for in-person learning for the rest of the school year.
"I did recommend that schools open," the city's Medical Officer of Health Dr. Vera Etches told CBC. She said that recommendation was based on Ottawa's capacity to respond to schools, the "current situation with COVID and the harms for children not being in school."
During Wednesday's announcement, Ford said he wouldn't risk spreading variants of concern any further, as they have been driving transmission in the province.
However, Etches said since children have returned to online learning, the number of children getting tested has declined. Schools are "a structured environment where we can see the benefits of the screening before children go to school," she said.
In a statement, Ottawa Mayor Jim Watson and Coun. Keith Egli called the news "deeply disappointing."
"This decision was made despite the advice of local public health units, including Ottawa Public Health," the statement read.
"There is no doubt that today's news will make the next few weeks even harder," the statement continues.
"Schools are not just place to learn, but a place of personal growth and development of interpersonal relationships, which are key to a child's mental health."
Concern for parents, children
Both Etches and Watson had publicly urged the province to reopen the city's schools last week, given the slowing spread of COVID-19 in Ottawa.
Given that the province has made its decision, Etches said her concern now is for the well-being of both parents and children, who have been learning remotely since April 19.
"This was potentially a support for parents who are trying to work and supervise school and do child care to actually have a break," she said.
"My concern lies there that we need to let people know they're not alone. It's hard to keep parenting at the same level."
Etches is asking parents to "not try to be the perfect parent right now." She encouraged those with children at home to seek help from others now that the provincial stay-at-home order has been lifted.