CAMP UPDATE: June 8, 2020 | A Message from Dr. Jeremy Friedman MB.ChB FRCP, SickKids

Dear Camp 18,

Thank you for reaching out and thank you for the work that you and your colleagues are doing.

The COVID-19 pandemic has been a once in a lifetime event for all of us in healthcare, and knowledge has evolved rapidly  in the 5 months since we first became aware of its existence. Guidance has, and will continue to change as this knowledge continues to evolve. We expect that this pandemic will not disappear in the near future. One should not look at the changing guidance over time as a reason for mistrust, but rather a recognition of open-mindedness in responding to the latest knowledge and science.

At Sickkids a group of us have been approached by the Ontario government and  Public Health agencies for our thoughts on camps and schools. Based on our ongoing review of the current international literature from China, Europe and the US, as well as our own experience here at Sickkids, which includes testing well over 4000 children for COVID-19 with a positivity rate of less than 1%. Since March only 5 COVID-positive children in total have actually been hospitalized, and mainly for reasons not related to the actual infection. They have all done well.

This supports the universal impression that children are less frequently and less severely affected, including our population of complex children that we care for at our hospital. The bulk of the evidence thus far also suggests that adults are much more likely than children to spread the virus. At the same time we and others are increasingly concerned about the negative impact of social isolation on the mental health and general wellbeing of children, including those with medical and behavioural complexity, as well as their parents. There are increasing reports, for example, of increased depression and anxiety. These are some of the factors that have led us to be very supportive of helping the government and Public Health agencies to gradually re-open day camps and schools in the upcoming months.

Similar to what we expect to see as the restrictions in general are relaxed, there will likely be some increase in cases and outbreaks. One cannot keep families in quarantine indefinitely, so there will be varying degrees of risk with anything and everything we do in the year ahead. We do currently feel that with the necessary public health recommendations being appropriately  and thoughtfully implemented in screening, handwashing, distancing etc that the benefits to children (including those with medical and behavioural complexity) and their families  of re-engaging with their peers and teachers will outweigh the risks over time.

Sincerely,

Jeremy Friedman MB.ChB FRCP
Associate Pediatrician-in-Chief, Hospital for Sick Children Professor of Pediatrics, University of Toronto Staff Pediatrician, Division of Pediatric Medicine
555 University Avenue, Toronto, Ontario M5G 1X8
Phone: 416-8135500
Email: Jeremy.friedman@sickkids.ca
Twitter: @DrJFriedman