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School reopening update leaves opposition dissatisfied – SaltWire Network

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While the province announced added measures to protect schools from COVID-19 on Friday, including making masks mandatory for students in Grades 4 and up,  serious concerns still remain with reopening day three weeks away, such as how infections will be communicated to parents and what would trigger a school shutdown. 

Education Minister Zach Churchill and Robert Strang, the province’s chief medical officer of health, held the first public update of the province’s reopening plan since its release more than three weeks ago. 

Unlike, his New Brunswick counterpart Dominic Cardy, who on Thursday pledged to hold twice-a-week news conferences to flesh out its provinces reopening plan, Churchill would not commit to weekly public information sharing sessions. 

The minister said he and Strang  “and whoever is appropriate” would make themselves available when needed and that his department would have fairly regular communication with parents. 

“My voice and Dr. Strang’s voice are not always the most needed voice to communicate with parents.” said Churchill.

The minister said the department’s first and foremost goal is student and staff safety. “We developed our plan to be flexible, to best support the return to school for children, students and staff,” said Churchill, adding that regional centres for education and the Conseil scolaire acadien provincial will continue to communicate with families. Principals will also reach out to families with specific information about their school closer to September. 

Friday’s news conference included some new protective measures for schools.  Strang said the move to mask students in grades 4 to 12 follows new Public Health Agency guidelines. The decision against imposing masks on children under the age of 10 is largely due to evidence that they are much less likely to transmit the virus, said the doctor.

The mask order instructs students to wear masks inside schools, such as hallways, if they can’t maintain a two-metre distance. Students are permitted to remove masks at their desks provided there’s a minimum of two metres between desks. All students and staff will receive two free cloth masks. 

The province has also earmarked an additional $40 million to safeguard schools, the majority of which is to hire more substitute teachers. As part of the move, the province is lifting the requirement for substitutes to hold a bachelor of education degree. Funding also includes money for additional custodial staff and lunchtime monitors.   

Churchill also announced other measures, including a maintenance review of school ventilation systems, to ensure they’re running in peak form.  Before and after school programs will be offered in accordance with public health guidelines.  School sports will return with protocols that follow public health guidelines. Those details are in the final stage of development with Sports Nova Scotia.  

Both Churchill and Strang pledged schools would notify families as soon as they become aware of COVID-19 cases in schools, along with what measures will need to be taken. But details about how those plans would work in practice have yet to be fully developed. 

“If a case is identified in a school we will act quickly to identify anyone who comes into contact with that person,” said Strang. “That’s why we’re keeping students in their classroom cohorts and limiting contact with cohorts.”

Strang also said in the cases of school infection, entire classroom cohorts wouldn’t necessarily have to self isolate.  

The minister remained confident that proper distancing can happen in most classes, and that “schools have been asked to be creative and innovative to maximize opportunities for spacing.” He said only one or two schools in the Halifax Regional Municipality area are facing space challenges. 

Public health is developing scenarios that could force further restriction in schools, including a school shutdown, said Strang. But he said there is no concrete number of virus infections that could force a school shutdown, instead several factors need to be considered, including whether there’s virus spread in the local community. 

“Even with an individual case, we have to look at where that person was likely exposed,” said Strang. “My team is working as much as we can anticipating a single case in a classroom, multiple cases in communities. We can’t make final decisions until we have a final case in front of us.”  

Regardless, he said, public health would work with schools to make sure students can continue their studies.  He also said he fully expects schools to be hit by COVID.  

Tory education critic Tim Halman was clearly frustrated after the news conference, saying “I still don’t know what the first day of school looks like for my four kids.”  

“Teachers still don’t have the details they need to get going to set up their classrooms.”  

He also slammed  the minister for not committing to weekly updates with reopening weeks aways. 

Claudia Chender, NDP education critic, echoed those sentiments saying what’s missing from the government’s reopening plan is a “steady flow of communication,” including details on what could trigger a school shutdown and plans to ensure easy access to COVID testing in schools. 

“We are a few weeks away from 12,000 children going back into close quarters with each other,” said Chender. “While I think it’s important that schools restart, this is the biggest reopening we’ve had since March, much bigger than the reopening of the commercial sector here in Nova Scotia.”

Chender said in the lead up to the reopening of the economy, government was holding regular weekly public briefings and that school staff, students, and parents should be entitled to the same.  

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Sask. police visiting recent travellers to check compliance with mandatory self-isolation – CBC.ca

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Police in Saskatchewan are checking-up on people who are in mandatory self-isolation after returning from international travel.

Regina Police Service spokeswoman Elizabeth Popowich said Tuesday that police receive a daily list from the Saskatchewan Health Authority of people who have recently travelled. 

“We dispatch a police car to the home address to ensure that the person is in fact doing that mandatory 14-day isolation,” said Popowich. 

“And if they’re not, then we refer it back to the Saskatchewan Health Authority (SHA) for further action as per the public health order.” 

Saskatoon police and the RCMP are also doing visits to check on compliance with the provincial order, which states anyone who has travelled internationally must isolate for two weeks. 

People who are isolating are allowed to be outside on their own property, such as a backyard or balcony, and they can take solitary walks if they do not have symptoms. 

Non-compliance referred back to health authority

Popowich said police do not issue immediate fines if a person does not open the door. Instead, they report back to the SHA to follow up. 

CBC has contacted the SHA for more information about the police visits and who initiated them.

Regina and Saskatoon police have both been doing check-ups since April.

‘There are consequences’ 

Police could issue a fine if someone is found to be repeatedly violating isolation after multiple checkups, but Popowich said she is not aware of any such fines being issued so far.

She said there are some instances where people may not receive a visit from police, for example if there is a mistake in the address or if police receive the information late in the quarantine period.

“Don’t risk getting a fine. Certainly don’t risk potentially carrying an infection to someone who is not as easily able to handle the illness,” she said.

“Treat it as though you could be paid a visit if you’ve been out of the country and you’re not self-isolating. If you’re not, then there are consequences.”

Popowich said Regina police have enough resources to take on the role of checking compliance. 

“Those calls get dispatched at a time when typically our other call loads are lower,” she said. 

In April, a Regina woman who had been diagnosed with COVID-19 was fined $2,800 for allegedly not complying with the order to self-isolate.

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Sask. Party first to 61 candidates – Prince Albert Daily Herald

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With its last nominee acclaimed Saturday, the Saskatchewan Party became the province’s first this election cycle to nominate a full slate of candidates.

There are 61 constituencies in Saskatchewan. The opposition NDP has 45 candidates listed on its website so far. The progressive conservatives are next, with 15, while the Saskatchewan Green Party has at least 13 — 11 listed on its website and another two by Elections Saskatchewan. This election’s newcomer, the Buffalo Party (formerly Wexit Saskatchewan) has nominated five and the Saskatchewan Liberals four.

Three independent candidates have also been listed by Elections Saskatchewan — Nestor Mryglod in Regina Wascana Plains, Trevor Wowk in Regina Lakeview and Rolf Hartloff in Regina Elphinstone-Centre.

Information about becoming an independent candidate is available on the Elections Saskatchewan Website.

The latest Sask. Party candidate — and the 61st to be nominated ahead of October’s provincial election, is Darren Deschambeault in Cumberland.

In a press release, he said he is looking forward to having representation from the region in Scott Moe’s government.

“Providing strong leadership and a real voice for the people of Cumberland in the legislature will help with a strong recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic,” he said.

Deschambeault was born and raised in Cumberland House, and currently works as a communications consultant for an oil and gas company.  He disclosed a 2001 impaired driving conviction that he has since received a pardon for.

Deschambeault will go up against incumbent NDP MLA Doyle Vermette and Saskatchewan progressive conservative candidate Dean Foster.

“With a full slate of 61 candidates nominated, Premier Scott Moe and the Saskatchewan Party team will be meeting voters in every part of the province to present their plan for a strong Saskatchewan and a strong economic recovery from the pandemic,” the Sask. Party said.

Locally, nominees are as follows:

Rosthern-Shellbrook

• Scott Moe, Saskatchewan Party (incumbent)

Saskatchewan Rivers

• Nadine Wilson, Saskatchewan Party (incumbent)

• Lyle Whitefish, NDP

• Shaun Harris, Progressive Conservative

Melfort

• Todd Goudy , Saskatchewan Party (incumbent)

• Lorne Schroeder, NDP

• Dave Waldner, Buffalo

Batoche

• Delbert Kirsch, Saskatchewan Party (incumbent)

• Lon Borgerson (NDP)

Prince Albert Carlton

• Joe Hargrave, Saskatchewan Party (incumbent)

• Troy Parenteau, NDP

Prince Albert Northcote

• Nicole Rancourt, NDP (incumbent)

• Alanna Ross, Saskatchewan Party

• Sarah Kraynick, Green Party

The provincial election is set for October 26.

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Active COVID-19 cases up slightly in Red Deer and Central zone – rdnewsnow.com

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By Sheldon Spackman

Tuesday Update

Sep 22, 2020 5:06 PM

Alberta is reporting 150 new cases of COVID-19 on Tuesday.

The latest numbers released by the province show 16,889 cases of coronavirus identified in the province since the pandemic began, with the number of active cases now at 1,565 – up 106 from Monday.

The number of people in hospital with the virus is 51 with nine in intensive care and two more deaths, bringing the death toll to 258. Recovered cases now stand at 15,066.

In the Central zone, the number of active cases is up four to 24, while 629 have recovered. There are currently no hospitalizations due to COVID-19 in the Central Zone.

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