With the back to school season right around the corner, Manitoba’s top doctor and education minister fielded questions from concerned parents and teachers on what the return to the classroom will look like, and how students will be protected.
Dr. Brent Roussin, the chief provincial public health officer, and Education Minister Kelvin Goertzen, hosted a town hall teleconference Tuesday evening to answer questions about the province’s back to school plan.
This comes less than a week after the province released its Restoring Safe Schools plan.
“We have to ensure that our young people get back into the classrooms,” Goertzen told Manitobans. “There are negative impacts for young people not being in the classroom, and not being able to get the in-class learning that they need.”
WHY ARE MASKS NOT REQUIRED FOR ALL STUDENTS?
In the province’s plan, it is strongly recommending students in Grades 5 to 12, along with school staff and others in schools, wear masks or face coverings. Younger students can wear masks if they choose to, or if their caregivers want them to.
Many Manitobans questioned why masks are not mandatory for all students when they return to school.
Roussin said the national guidance when it comes to masks is that students ages 10 years and older wear masks. He said for younger students, the use of masks may not be as useful as they are to older students.
“We know that the transmission of the virus is less so, the younger the child is,” he said. “The other thing is just the expectation of adherence to proper mask use – the amount of times these kids would be touching their face and bringing the mask down is really counterproductive to using the mask.”
While they are not mandatory yet, Roussin said the possibility of masks being required is not off the table.
“Certainly, mask use is important, and we may at some point require mandated masks,” Roussin said. “As we strongly recommend it, and if get good compliance with that, then there won’t be a need to mandate it.”
CONCERNS OVER AT-HOME LEARNING
One parent questioned Goertzen on the lack of options for at-home learning for students.
“There are many parents that are very hesitant, like myself,” she said, noting she wanted to keep her children at home.
She described the choice between sending students to school or homeschooling as “kind of unnerving.”
Goertzen said if students have a specific medical requirement to stay home, there are supports put in place through the division to ensure the at-home learning can happen.
But, he said there are challenges in providing younger students with at-home learning.
“Those grades from (Kindergarten) to (Grade) 8 are probably the least likely to do well with at-home learning, or trying to do some kind of self-instruction if they don’t have some good guidance,” Goertzen said.
WHAT HAPPENS IF A STUDENT GETS COVID-19?
Roussin did tell Manitobans that it is expected that there will be cases of COVID-19 identified in schools, which is why the province is telling schools to operate using cohorts or groups of students.
“The idea behind the layered approach is to minimize the number of close contacts. The idea of cohorts is to have a maximum (number of students), so we are not going to have to shut down a school when we see a single case,” Roussin said.
He said when a case is identified in a school, public health will do a contact tracing investigation to identify anyone who is a close contact – which could include an entire cohort.
Roussin said those people will need to self-isolate for 14 days.
Public health will inform the close contacts first, followed by school administration, and then the school community of the exposure.
“We will be informing Manitobans of cases in schools and provide as much information as we can,” he said.
More information about Manitoba’s back to school plan can be found at engagemb.ca.
Montreal and Quebec City will enter red zone soon: Dubé – Montreal Gazette
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“They’re decisions that will be very difficult, but we have to make them,” Dubé said.
On Sunday, Quebec had 71,901 confirmed COVID-19 cases, of which 4,937 were active and 5,825 had died. Of the active cases, 216 were in hospital, and of those 41 were in intensive care. The number of people in hospitals has increased 57 per cent in a week.
A total of 27,380 people tested on Friday, for a cumulative total of 2,260,835 people tested to date.
The rising number of infections underlines the need for people to forgo social gatherings, said Dr. Jay Kaufman, an epidemiologist at McGill University.
Get-togethers with friends and family functions are likely the main cause of the recent uptick in the spread of the virus, which is seeing its highest numbers since cases peaked in April and May, he said.
Montreal and Quebec City will be upgraded to red alert 'in coming days', says Dubé – CBC.ca
Montreal and Quebec City will be upgraded to the highest COVID-19 alert level “in the coming days” according to provincial Health Minister Christian Dubé.
He confirmed the two cities would move from orange to red alert while speaking on Radio-Canada’s popular Sunday night talk show, Tout le monde en parle.
“Montreal and Quebec City are the hardest hit areas at the moment. They’re very close to the red zone,” he said. “We’re going to announce in the coming days because I think we’ve arrived at that point. We’re there and we have to act because people are expecting us to be transparent.”
Dubé said that difficult decisions lie ahead but didn’t give details on exactly what the red zone restrictions would look like.
The number of COVID-19 infections in the province continues to surge, with Quebec reporting 896 new cases on Sunday.
The island of Montreal has the most new cases at 375. The Quebec City area clocks in at 120 and the Montérégie has 83 new cases.
Dubé and public health officials have been calling on people to stop socializing for the next month in order to slow the spread of the virus.
Possible COVID-19 exposures at two Winnipeg schools – CTV News Winnipeg
Public health officials are advising Manitobans about a possible COVID-19 exposure at two Winnipeg Schools.
According to the province, a person with a confirmed case of COVID-19 was in École Précieux-Sang on Sept. 18.
The province also announced a possible exposure at Sisler High School on Sept. 18.
In both cases, health officials warned that the individuals might have been infectious at the time.
The province is deeming both exposures as low risk, citing the virus was not acquired at either school.
According to the province, both schools are working closely with public health officials and following their recommendations.
Anyone identified as a close contact will be contacted and provided instructions for self-isolation.
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