We are many doctors from different disciplines who today wish to give a voice to the children of Quebec, who have no one to officially defend their rights in the public debates surrounding the pandemic. According to our assessment of the various health risks, they are currently paying a disproportionate price in relation to the prevention measures in place. While it was appropriate to exercise great caution at the start of this unprecedented health crisis, the scientific community now has enough perspective to readjust as regards schools, daycares and day camps.
We have been aware of the scientific documentation and epidemiological data surrounding COVID-19 for more than three months every day. Our clinical experience and that of our colleagues around the world lead us to observe that the majority of children are spared from the virus. They rarely catch the disease and rarely suffer from its serious forms. We follow in real time the rare outbreaks in daycare centers and schools in Quebec: everything is going well. The data shows us that there is currently very little transmission from children to adults, and therefore little impact on the health of the population. If there is a second wave to this pandemic, it seems unlikely that it will be caused by a relaxation of the draconian measures currently in place. Of course, we believe that the health of educators must remain a top priority. However, we believe that it is certainly possible to let go of certain recommendations aimed at children without putting adults at risk.
Day after day, we are witnessing major abuses in the implementation of public health measures that seriously compromise the health and well-being of many children. The Ministry of Families and the Ministry of Education send instructions to the field which seem surreal to many experts, but also to many parents, educators, teachers and managers. Here are some very real examples:
Here a school which draws squares on the ground in which the children must remain for all the recess, without direct interaction with their friends. Or a daycare educator who has to do the “2 meter police” with very unwilling little ones, armed with a visor and a mask which are imposed on him. Remember that contact between children and free play is essential to ensure good socio-emotional and language development.
There instructors of future day camps who receive directives according to which they will not be able to help a child to put sunscreen or to fill his water bottle, even in full heat wave.
Here is a daycare center which prohibits books, puzzles, pencils, dolls and balloons on the pretext that they cannot be disinfected easily. Children will therefore be deprived of many fun and educational opportunities for months. However, to date, the transmission of the virus by contaminated objects remains poorly described, while it is the frequent hand washing that is decisive.
Mr. Legault, is this the new normal that we want for our children? A few months in the life of a 2 year old toddler makes all the difference. We are aware that your government has already taken several actions to better support families, but as child health experts, we remain very concerned about their development in the short and long term. We ask you to quickly relax the health measures in daycares, schools and soon in day camps. We specifically request these changes:
1- that the 2 meter distance rule be lifted for children 12 and under;
2- that wearing a mask is not required for children 12 and under;
3- that protective glasses are provided on the ground (rather than visors), as well as transparent masks allowing children to see the smiles and lips of adults;
4- that all individual or group sports activities for children and adolescents resume as soon as possible;
5- that the use of educational materials and the sharing of toys are again permitted, without the need for disinfection between each use.
Prime Minister, you have always presented yourself as a great defender of our children, now is the time to act to relax the measures imposed on them.
* Dr. Marie-Ève Beauregard, doctor specializing in public health and preventive medicine
Dr. Dominique Cousineau, Development Pediatrician, CHU Sainte-Justine
Dr. Catherine Dea, physician specializing in public health and preventive medicine, University of Montreal
Dr. Catherine Dery, pediatrician, CISSS de Chaudière-Appalaches, Beauce Hospital
Dr. Véronique Groleau, pediatric gastroenterologist, CHU Sainte-Justine
Dr. Annie Janvier, pediatric neonatologist, clinical ethicist, CHU Sainte-Justine
Dr Francis Livernoche, social pediatrician, CHU Sherbrooke
Dr. Karine Pépin, pediatrician, CHU Sainte-Justine
Dr. Caroline Pilon Tremblay, child psychiatrist, Charles-Le Moyne Hospital
Dr. Irena Stikarovska, psychiatrist and child and adolescent psychiatrist, CHU Sainte-Justine
Dr. Caroline Têtu, psychiatrist, CISSS de la Montérégie-Ouest, Anna-Laberge Hospital
Dr. Suzanne Vaillancourt, pediatric emergency physician, MUHC
Dr Isabelle Viel-Thériault, pediatric infectious disease specialist, CHU de Québec-Université Laval