Monday marked the day before back-to-school across the Maritimes. After over five months since COVID-19 closed schools, students are scheduled to return on Tuesday. However, in Nova Scotia, teachers say some schools aren’t ready to reopen.
On Monday, Grade 2 student Maria Mothana enjoyed her final day of summer vacation before the school routine sets in.
“I have to wake up at 8 a.m.,” says Maria, more concerned about her alarm than COVID-19.
Maria and her brother, Mohammed, are excited to return to the classroom. However, the pandemic-readiness of classrooms is being called into question by the Nova Scotia Teachers Union.
“There’s a lot of people headed back to school tomorrow worried about safety, logistics, and readiness to provide the supports that teachers and kids deserve,” says Nova Scotia Teachers Union president, Paul Wozney. “Some hand sanitizer has been dropped off undiluted, and it’s expected to be put on kids’ hands – it’s just not safe.”
Wozney has been sharing pictures on his Instagram account detailing the condition of schools. In the photos, images of gyms and resource rooms crowded with boxes and furniture can be seen, as well as a window shut with duct tape. Additionally, he questions whether ventilation systems are working.
The province maintains schools are ready and will be ready to welcome students.
“Students are excited to return to school tomorrow and schools will be ready to welcome them,” read a statement from the province, sent to CTV via email on Monday. “Thank you to our principals and teachers, regional and CSAP staff, the experts at public health and the IWK for their hard work and expertise in developing a plan to get our kids back to school safely.”
Meanwhile, some educators are using social media to provide reassurance. Schools such as Lunenburg’s Bluenose Academy are creating videos detailing their safety precautions.
GETTING STUDENTS READY
Supplemental education service, Oxford Learning, says parents have their own homework cut out for them concerning their children’s safety.
“What we need to talk to them about is how do we wear a mask, how do we sanitize our hands, what sorts of things will be different at schools this year,” says Oxford Learning director, Lorelei Burgess.
With one day to go before her children return to class amid the new normal, Maria and Mohammed’s mother says she’s anxious but believes they need to be back in a learning environment. In preparation, the two siblings have organized their supplies and reviewed the rules.
“You have to wear a mask and social distancing, I think,” says Mohammed.
With files from CTV Atlantic’s Sarah Plowman
Four Ottawa schools under outbreak as number of COVID-19 cases inches up – Ottawa Citizen
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The other three schools with outbreaks remain open although some students have been sent home to isolate.
Whether a school remains open during an outbreak depends on how many groups of students are affected, said the statement from Ottawa Public Health.
Officials trace close contacts, which usually includes anyone in the same classroom as someone who has tested positive. Close contacts are usually sent home to self-isolate for 14 days.
“If there is sufficient evidence to indicate that there is risk of spread to additional cohorts, there may be a decision to close the entire school in order to stop transmission in the school,” said Public Health.
At Franco Ouest, where three students tested positive for COVID-19, parents were sent a letter from public health saying a “partial dismissal” of students at the school had been decided upon because the outbreak was “contained to a small group.”
“There is no evidence of widespread transmission within the school,” the letter said. The duration of the dismissal has not been established, but it could be two or more weeks, said the letter.
Public health officials notify students who need to isolate or be tested for COVID-19.
However, all students and staff at schools under outbreak should monitor themselves for symptoms and avoid going to “facilities where physical distancing cannot be maintained, in particular daycare centres, play groups, etc.” said the letter to parents. “Visiting older persons or those with chronic illness is also not recommended during this time.”
Murder trial on pause while Winnipeg juror tested for COVID-19 – Medicine Hat News
By Kelly Geraldine Malone, The Canadian Press on September 23, 2020.
WINNIPEG – Jury deliberations for a second-degree murder trial in Manitoba have been put on hold so a juror can be tested for COVID-19.
Court of Queenâ€™s Bench Justice Vic Toews told the remaining 11 jurors that the man was exhibiting symptoms and was not allowed to enter the courthouse.
The other jurors were sent home and advised to self-isolate until the manâ€™s test results are complete.
Jury trials were suspended across the country in the spring as the justice system grappled with how to handle the pandemic.
They resumed in Manitoba at the start of September with the trial of Kane Moar, who is charged with second-degree murder in the death of Ricardo Hibi.
Hibi, a 34-year-old foster home manager, was stabbed to death in 2018.
The court put several protocols in place. Jury selections have been held in a large convention centre near the courthouse and there has been physical distancing in courtrooms during trials.
Masks also became mandatory after an employee at the Winnipeg courthouse tested positive for the novel coronavirus earlier this month.
Toews reassured jurors in the Moar trial about the precautions before sending them home Wednesday.
â€œAt this time, the best advice I can give you is simply go home,â€ he said. â€œI would advise you to self-isolate over this period of time, minimize your contacts as much as you can and you will be contacted by the court as to when you come back.â€
The judge said he was optimistic that jurors would return as soon as Thursday to hear the charge before beginning deliberations on a verdict. However, Toews said there may have to be other actions if the juror’s results come back positive for COVID-19.
â€œIâ€™m taking instructions from the public health officials, not only in respect of the results of testing of your colleague on the jury, but what implications that has for you.â€
Manitoba announced 42 new cases of COVID-19 in the province Wednesday, as the number of people testing positive in the capital city continued to surge.
Thirty of those new cases are in the Winnipeg health region and the province announced possible exposures at restaurants, bars and during a trivia night at a pub.
Dr. Brent Roussin, Manitoba’s chief provincial public health officer, said earlier this week he was worried by the rising numbers in Winnipeg, where some people who tested positive had visited multiple locations while symptomatic.
The province also announced confirmed cases in three more schools, but said the infections were not acquired in the classroom and the risk is low.
There have so far been 1,674 cases in Manitoba and 18 people have died.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Sept. 23, 2020.
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Public health officials call for tighter restrictions, warn COVID-19 could spiral out of control – CBC.ca
Infectious disease experts say Canadian health authorities must tighten restrictions again or hospitalizations and deaths from COVID-19 will increase exponentially in the coming weeks.
Echoing comments made Tuesday by Chief Public Health Officer Dr. Theresa Tam, who said Canada is at a crossroads in its pandemic battle, experts in public health are urging governments to take decisive action to prevent the current resurgence of the virus from spiralling out of control.
Canada reported 1,248 new cases Wednesday, and on Tuesday the country’s most populous province, Ontario, reported its highest number of new cases since early May.
Tam outlined projections that show new cases could climb to 5,000 daily by October if we continue on the current course.
“To date, we’re not moving fast enough to get ahead of this,” said Dr. Michael Gardam, an infectious disease physician based at a Women’s College Hospital in Toronto. “I think we’re being lulled into a false sense of security because of the low numbers of hospitalizations and deaths [relative to earlier in the pandemic]. But they will come in the next six weeks or so.”
He said asking people nicely to tighten their social circles is not going to be enough.
“I think that appealing to people’s better natures — that, hey, you should be careful and you should make sure you limit your contacts — I don’t think that that’s going to work, to be perfectly frank.”
Gardam said Canadians grew fatigued with the restrictions imposed on their social circles earlier in the year and won’t be eager to return to them unless pressed.
“I think we’re going to have to be a lot more forceful,” he said.
That means demanding Canadians tighten their social circles, and backing that up with enforcement.
“I would argue that we need to be very cautious, like we were back in March, in order to weather the storm from all the increased contacts that we’ve had.”
Right now, “people are playing fast and loose with bubbles all over the place,” said Gardam.
If you increase the number of contacts that you have, this is going to go to hell real quick.– Michael Gardam, infectious disease physician, Women’s College Hospital
Instead, he says we need to rethink social bubbles now that school is in session again.
“We’re all going to have to pay the price because our kids are in school now. So what are we giving up?
“If you want to keep the restaurants open and bars, maybe you have to give up your private gatherings,” he said. “Because if you just increase in every dimension, if you increase the number of contacts that you have, this is going to go to hell real quick.”
The actions taken in the next two weeks could change the trajectory of the months to come, said Laura Rosella, an associate professor at the University of Toronto’s Dalla Lana School of Public Health,
“There’s a lot of things with this pandemic that we can’t control, but we might be able to control who we interact with, especially socially, and who’s in our bubble,” said Rosella, who holds a PhD in epidemiology.
“I would encourage everyone to rethink what their bubbles are given the new situation, especially if something’s changed, if someone’s gone back to work, someone’s entering a school situation and especially if vulnerable people are in their bubbles.”
Rosella said her advice to Canadians is to “really think through what is absolutely necessary” when it comes to interactions with others.
More than a blip
Rosella said Canadians can’t afford to ignore the changes happening with COVID-19.
“We’re not in the August situation anymore. There’s clearly an uptick of cases,” said Rosella, “The fact that we’re already on that trajectory tells me that the likelihood of this being just a small blip, that we’re not going to notice and we can carry on, is pretty low.”
“We are going to experience a significant increase that we’re going to have to manage and react to. It could be worse if we do nothing. And if we act, we could minimize the impact of it.”
Dr. Samir Gupta, a clinician-scientist at St. Michael’s Hospital and an assistant professor in the department of medicine at the University of Toronto, said getting a handle on this COVID-19 surge means returning to restrictions implemented earlier in the pandemic.
Speaking with Heather Hiscox on CBC Morning Live Wednesday, Gupta said Canadians “need to start making similar sacrifices to the ones we made the first time around,” which was successful with flattening the curve in the spring.
Without enforcement, “we risk overwhelming our health-care system capacity … [and getting] into real trouble,” he said.
“We don’t want to have to turn people away and not be able to take care of people who are sick with this virus. And that’s the biggest risk we face.”
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