How do they decide who is going back to school ask statisticians, health officials

This graph from Public Health Ontario shows Lambton(pink) has similar rates of cases of COVID-19 per 100,000 as Middlesex-London (green) and Southwest (orange) health units which are returning to school Monday. Lambton is not.

One biostatstician says Lambton students should be back in class compared with London

Lambton’s Medical Officer of Health says it would be nice to know how the province is making decisions on sending students back to school.

Education Minister Stephen Leece announced students who live in the public health units covering Ottawa, Eastern, Southwestern and Lambton’s next door neighbour, London-Middlesex, are returning to school Monday.

Students in Lambton will have to wait another week to find out when or if they will return to class.

During a news conference Friday, Premier Doug Ford would not say whether the rest of the students in Ontario would return to class Feb. 10 but says “nothing is better than in class.”

Ontario’s Chief Medical Officer of Health, Dr. David Williams adds the key is getting rapid tests in place “We would like to have them prepared for the 10th we don’t know if that will be the date for sure”

But some public health experts are wondering why the province is allowing the return of students in theses particular regions. While Williams, told reporters Thursday the province was still using the provincial reopening framework to make decisions, analysts can’t find a common denominator for the communities who will have students back in the classrooms Monday.

Ryan Imgrund, biostatistician for South Lake Regional Health Center and the Department Head of Science at York Catholic District School Board has been crunching the COVID-19 numbers for months. He’s particularly interested in transmission of the virus in schools.

When the province announced the return to school for Middlesex-London Thursday, Imgrund questioned the move saying Lambton County has comparable statistics for the rate of transmission as some of the communities where students will go back to school.

Public Health Ontario data for the past seven days shows Lambton had an average of 9.81 cases of COVID-19 per 100,000 people from Jan. 22 to Jan. 29 , while Middlesex-London and the Southwest Health Unit had 11.92 and 11.2 cases per 100,000 in the same time frame.

“Ontario parents, teachers, and students want clear criteria around when a return to school can happen,” Imgrund said on Twitter. “This criteria doesn’t exist. It appears to be a guessing game. Let’s set this criteria. And share it.”

Lambton’s Medical Officer of Health, Dr. Sudit Ranade, expressed frustration with the lack of a clear criteria recently, when the province started allowing southern Ontario students to return to school.

“I would have liked to see some information about what thresholds they use to make that decision,” Ranade told reporters Jan. 21.

“And I think it can be challenging where you have border communities where your neighbors are going to school nd your and your kids aren’t.

“I think as a principle, it would be nice to see some information about how those decisions were made and what’s the rationale for using a regional approach when the entire province is under sort of a provincial approach with respect to lock down.”

The Independent has learned that some Lambton students who travel to London for attend a private school have been given approval to attend in person. It’s not clear if students who live in communities in Lambton on the border with Middlesex who attend school in that county will be able to return to class.