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Kids heading back to school means we have to be more careful

Local economies are as open as they’re likely to be, pending a cure or vaccine for COVID-19, and the province now has a plan in place for reopening schools in the fall. This is the new normal, even if we’re suffering from coronavirus fatigue at this point.

The situation today isn’t satisfying – and certainly not satisfactory – but we’re very much mindful that a spike in cases could see restrictions become the norm again, and that’s a situation that no one wants.

A new Nanos Research poll finds most of us would support a lockdown similar to what we saw in March should there be another wave. Half of Canadians would support shutting down all but essential businesses, and another 23 per cent somewhat agree with that idea.

On the other hand, one in four would somewhat oppose (12 per cent) or oppose (13 per cent) such a reversal. Residents of Ontario (63 per cent) and Atlantic Canada (62 per cent) have a higher level of support for that idea than residents of the Prairies (38 per cent) or Quebec (30 per cent), Nanos reports.

As we’ve seen in the U.S., reopening the economy without adequate precautions and a buy-in from the public on health measures can and does lead to increase in COVID-19 cases. We’re aware of that here, and most Canadians are eager to avoid repeating that scenario on this side of the border. That’s likely why the survey found a very strong majority of Canadians say they would support or somewhat support requiring everyone to wear a mask in indoor public spaces – close to nine in ten Canadians say they would support (72 per cent) or somewhat support (15 per cent) requiring everyone to wear a mask in indoor public places, while just over one in ten would oppose this (eight per cent) or somewhat oppose this (four per cent).

Thus far, businesses have been reopening without too many issues. That’s been notably true in this region. The next big hurdle will be getting kids back to school come September. The province last week announced a plan to do just that, drawing some flak for the amount of money it set aside for the effort. Still, getting classes back underway is a priority for almost 80 per cent of Canadians, the survey indicating it is important (45 per cent) or somewhat important (33 per cent) for provinces to find a way to open schools for in-person schooling this fall.

Children have been home from school since mid-March, and parents are understandably eager to see classes resume for a variety of reasons, from concerns about missing out on an education to seeing life return to something closer to normality.

While some parents will be reluctant, fearing for their children’s health and for the chance the virus will spread, some risk is inevitable. That said, it’s up to the province and school boards to take every precaution to reduce that risk. And it will fall on parents to help ensure their children follow the inevitable restrictions that will be in place.

It won’t be easy.

Of course, that applies to every social situation, from the workplace to the grocery store, and to each and every one of us. There’s no way to make society 100 per cent safe, but acting responsibly is an option each of us can and must undertake. Again, we need only look at the renewed outbreaks in the U.S. to see what happens when the proper precautions are not in place … and when significant numbers of people fail to do what’s right for themselves, others and their communities.

In doing the right thing, we’ll likely ensure that returning to more draconian measures won’t be necessary.

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