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Parents give pop quiz to Manitoba health leaders during town hall on back-to-school plans



Thousands of Manitobans had the opportunity to remotely take part in a town hall Tuesday night to raise their back-to-school concerns with government officials.

Manitoba Education Minister and Chief Provincial Public Health Officer Dr. Brent Roussin fielded questions from 17 people, most of them parents, over the hour-long phone call.

Questions covered concerns over the lack of a mask mandate in schools, substitute teacher availability and movements across institutions, and how cohorting and contact tracing will work in the likely event that a student or staff member tests positive.

Among other doubts and fears, parents also pressed for more clarity on accommodations for immuno-compromised families, supports for students with exceptional needs, and resources for children with anxieties about heading back to class.

Earlier in the day, Manitoba registered two new COVID-19 deaths, and its active case load grew to 235.

The provincial government released its updated back-to-school guidelines for parents and divisions last week.

A number of divisions revealed their specific plans in the days that followed, with more expected to share information in the days to come.

But even as details emerge, parents on the call suggested they either aren’t happy or feel uncertain about the government approach to some issues.

Why no mask mandate?

At least two callers asked why masks aren’t being mandated for everyone in schools, or at least for staff and students in middle and senior years.


Students from grades 5 to 12 are ‘strongly encouraged’ to wear masks in the Winnipeg School Division. (Oksana Kuzmina/Adobe Stock)


“I think if this is going to be our new normal, it’s something that students and staff would have to just get used to for the hopefully short-term but maybe for a bit longer than that,” said Marge from St. Andrews, suggesting students of all grades should wear masks.

The provincial guidelines currently strongly recommend, but do not mandate, mask use among all staff, as well as students in grades 5-12 while in school. Masks must be worn by students in that bracket who ride the bus.

The Public Health Association of Canada currently does not advise mask use among students 10 and younger, and Roussin explained why the province is following that outline.

‘I feel like I’m having to choose between my daughter’s health and my other two [childrens’] education– Caller named Nicole

He said the virus doesn’t seem to be transmitted at a high rate among younger children.

“The other thing is just the expectation of adherence to proper mask use, and so the amount of times that these kids would be touching their face and bringing the mask down is really counter-productive,” he said.

Roussin said Manitobans have generally followed public health recommendations since the pandemic arrived in March, which is another reason why he hasn’t yet mandated masks.

Back-to-school anxiety

Another caller described how her daughter was struggling academically and was in the middle of a psychological assessment when the pandemic hit. The mother said she is also one of two family members cleared to visit an older family member in care.

“This is just an added anxiety for a child like mine who needs in-person learning but also has added anxiety on top of what she’s already facing academically with a grandma in a nursing home on oxygen who’s dying, so she’s very afraid to bring it home,” she said.

“I don’t really know how a school would deal with a situation like mine.”

Goertzen pointed to the mental health and well-being guidelines for divisions. He suggested all divisions should have supports ready for students who might be experiencing anxiety, and families can expect to work on individualized plans for their children in the coming weeks.

“There is going to be an increased anxiety among young people, but we don’t know to what extent,” he said.

“There is a lot of learning that’s happening so there are resources in place.”

Immuno-compromised family

The province has said medically fragile students who receive a recommendation from a health professional to stay at home can do so. Other students, including those with common chronic conditions, are generally expected to attend school.

A caller named Nicole said asked about households that include a vulnerable family member. She has several children, including an immuno-compromised adult daughter with Down syndrome.


This chart illustrates where active cases of COVID-19 are in the province, with red indicating Winnipeg cases, yellow for Prairie Mountain, green for Southern Health and blue for Interlake-Eastern. The Northern Health region has only had three cases. (Jacques Marcoux/CBC)


“We’ve had all our kids home for the last five months,” she asked, hinting that schools should still provide the option of remote learning for homes like hers. “Flu season is coming. I feel like I’m having to choose between my daughter’s health and my other two [childrens’] education. Why can there not be a compromise?”

Roussin acknowledged there are unique circumstances like those outlined by Nicole that the province is still looking into how to address.

Cohorts and contact tracing

The province has advocated for schools to implement a cohort model — grouping the same students together each day and week — when space constraints make the advisable two-metre distancing guideline impractical.

Two callers raised questions about this — namely regarding why there aren’t any firm rules restricting substitute teachers from filling in at multiple different schools, and what would happen in the event a student in a cohort tests positive.

Our expectation is that teachers will be that two metres removed from the students.– Education Minister Kelvin Goertzen

“Does the cohort of students then have to self isolate the 14 days, or do they just watch for symptoms?” asked a caller named Tracy.

Roussin said school administrators will be notified, then the school community and all of Manitobans.

Health officials will carry out contact tracing protocols when a student or staff tests positive, including looking into close contacts who spent greater than 15 minutes within two metres of the positive case, said Roussin.

It’s possible an entire cohort, which can number up to 75 students, could have to isolate, but it could also end up being a small number of close contacts

Substitute teachers

A caller named Sean worried that if substitute teachers could be exposing themselves and multiple cohorts if they’re moving from school to school.

Goertzen said when the pandemic began, many other jurisdictions experienced outbreaks in personal care homes with ties to workers who moved between facilities. In contrast to that example, he said nurses do considerably different work than teachers or substitutes.

“Sometimes … any kind of [distancing] isn’t possible for a nurse working in a personal home,” he said. “Our expectation is that teachers will be that two metres removed from the students.”

More information about the townhall is expected to be posted on the province’s website.


The red illustrates the number of active cases of COVID-19 in Manitoba, while the green represents recovered cases. (Jacques Marcoux/CBC)


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Red alert level expected to bring new coronavirus restrictions for Montreal and Quebec City – Global News



Quebec is reporting 750 new infections of the novel coronavirus Monday as the pandemic once again takes hold in the province.

The caseload stands at 72,651, which is the highest in Canada. There have been more than 61,000 recoveries to date.

One additional death linked to COVID-19, the disease caused by the virus, was also reported but authorities say the date it occurred is unknown.

The health crisis has killed 5,826 Quebecers since March.

Read more:
Red alert level expected to bring new coronavirus restrictions for Montreal and Quebec City

The number of hospitalizations decreased by four on Monday to 212.

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Of those patients, 37 are in intensive care, a decline of four from the previous day.

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Quebec conducted 17,310 tests on Saturday, the latest day for which that information is available. To date, 2,278,145 tests have been given.

Click to play video 'Number of COVID-19 cases in Quebec schools on the rise'

Number of COVID-19 cases in Quebec schools on the rise

Number of COVID-19 cases in Quebec schools on the rise

© 2020 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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Ontario records highest number of new COVID-19 cases yet – 680 News



Ontario is reporting 700 new cases of COVID-19 and one new death on Monday.

  • The province confirmed 491 COVID-19 cases on Sunday.
  • More than 41,100 tests have been completed.
  • 331 cases are resolved.
  • 344 new cases are in Toronto, 104 new cases are in Peel, 89 in Ottawa, and 56 cases in York Region.
  • 60% of the new cases are in people under the age of 40.

This record number of new COVID-19 cases comes the same day GTA casinos reopen after six months.

Ontario announced new restrictions on Friday in efforts to prevent the spread of COVID-19 that now see strip clubs closed, and new regulations for bars and restaurants.

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Ontario sets new single-day high with 700 cases of COVID-19 – CP24 Toronto's Breaking News



Chris Fox,

Published Monday, September 28, 2020 10:30AM EDT

Last Updated Monday, September 28, 2020 10:48AM EDT

Ontario is reporting a record 700 new cases of COVID-19 with nearly half of them in Toronto.

It’s the highest daily count ever recorded in Ontario, surpassing the 640 cases confirmed on April 24.

It should, however, be noted that the province was testing far fewer people this spring and those numbers might not have fully captured the degree to which the virus was present at the time.

For example, the previous high of 640 cases was based on the completion of more than 12,000 individual tests, translating into a positive percentage of five per cent. Meanwhile, the 700 cases confirmed on Monday came on more than 41,000 tests. That translates into a positive percentage of about 1.7 per cent.

Of the new cases confirmed on Monday, roughly three-quarters of them were in the Greater Toronto Area (526 cases), continuing a recent trend.

Toronto alone had 344 cases while Peel Region had 104 cases, York Region had 56 cases, Durham Region had seven cases and Halton Region had 15 cases.

More to come…

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