An Important Message from Dr. Christos Karatzios
March 14, 2020
The Hellenic Community of Greater Montreal and École Socrates-Démosthène have had an effective pandemic plan in place for quite some time. There has been a ready and operational pandemic plan since the 2009 H1N1 influenza pandemic. This has been way ahead of many other schools in Quebec.
I helped create the initial pandemic influenza plan of 2009 and have worked closely with the school administration over the past few weeks to get this pandemic plan updated for COVID-19. The final plan included very detailed procedures for all campuses to follow for cleaning, disinfecting, and sanitizing, and a long list of preventative measures. This pandemic plan was put into action from the minute students and staff returned to school following March break. Other schools in the province closed on March 13, 2020 so administration could prepare a pandemic plan but the government ended up closing all Quebec educational institutions as of noon on March 13, 2020 anyway. It is my professional opinion that there was no extra danger (to stay open on Friday, March 13, 2020) to the children or staff at École Socrates-Démosthène because their plan was in motion, and was being closely assessed and monitored. It is also my understanding that this same plan was immediately applied to clean, disinfect, and sanitize our churches in order to protect our elderly population.
On March 11, 2020, I called and warned several community leaders and organizations, before anything was officially announced, because I knew what was coming down the pipeline. I called to warn against mass gatherings. I did not call Écoles Socrates-Démosthène to ask for their closure because: (1) their pandemic plan had been put in motion and was being followed; and (2) I do not have the authority to do so. Only the Quebec government can direct when schools close, and that is what happened on March 13, 2020. We do not know how long the school closures will be active for and further emergency measures have been announced by the government – and likely will be announced in the near future.
I believe the HCGM and Écoles Socrates-Démosthène have acted prudently and with great vigilance and should be commended for their efforts. Please be safe, protect yourselves, protect our elderly population, and follow the directives of health authorities and the government.
Christos Karatzios MD CM, FRCPC
Assistant Professor of Pediatrics
McGill University Health Centre
Division of Infectious Diseases
Montreal Children’s Hospital