Parents in Manitoba preparing to send their kids back to school this year have even more questions on their minds than usual, as the province struggles to once again flatten the curve on rising COVID-19 cases.
A CBC survey asking parents for their top back-to-school questions received hundreds of responses. One of the major areas of concern had to do with at-home learning for children whose health conditions put them at risk of severe consequences from COVID-19.
School divisions will provide remote learning for “for students who are medically advised not to return to in-class learning due to COVID-19 related risk factors,” according to the province’s back-to-school planning document.
Doctors across the province are preparing for a flood of sick note requests from parents worried about sending their kids back to school.
Many questions remain, however, regarding what risk factors qualify and how that should be determined.
CBC News reached out to the province, as well as medical organizations and school divisions, to get the most up-to-date information about some of those questions.
Take our survey if you have any other questions you want answered.
What qualifies a child for remote learning?
Chief Provincial Public Health Officer Dr. Brent Roussin has said it would be difficult to provide a list of health problems that could warrant an exemption to in-class learning.
A spokesperson for the provincial government told CBC News in a statement that situations where students are granted an exemption “should be rare and limited to children with compromised immune systems or other medical conditions that increase their risk.” Parents must consult with a health care provider.
Once an exemption is granted, it would last for the rest of the year or until the spread of the virus is broadly contained and a vaccine or viable treatment is available, the spokesperson said.
In a note on its website advising on requests for workplace or school accommodations, Doctors Manitoba has directed physicians to guidelines published by Shared Health in July, detailing what COVID-19 risk factors could be considered for health care workers.
These risk factors included chronic conditions like lung and heart disease, diabetes, kidney disease, liver disease, cerebral vascular disease (stroke) and severe obesity. It also included people who are immunocompromised, including cancer patients, people who have received organ transplants or people who are taking immune-weakening medications like chemotherapy.
Concerns about mental health conditions like anxiety should be assessed in an in-person or virtual visit, Doctors Manitoba said.
“Doctors will discuss the situation with parents, understand their concerns and the plan for their specific school, but ultimately can only provide a note if there is medical basis for this,” said Kier Johnson, a spokesperson for Doctors Manitoba.
The College of Surgeons and Physicians of Manitoba has published guidance for handling requests for school accommodations from parents. They advise doctors that they “are not obliged to provide a medical note of exemption if they deem it is not medically indicated or appropriate for the individual circumstances.”
What about asthma or autism?
Many common chronic illnesses, like asthma, or cognitive and behavioural conditions such as autism, would “not necessarily” qualify someone for an exemption, Roussin said at a news conference on Aug. 27.
He said there are a range of symptoms for those conditions and a medical professional would need to determine the severity of each individual case, and if it warranted an exemption.
What if a family member is at risk?
The province’s back-to-school planning document states that students who can’t return to school because of “personal or family health risks factors related to COVID-19 will be supported in remote learning.”
As for who would qualify, the province has not said.
Doctors Manitoba says concerns about family members’ health conditions are “valid” but “problematic as a rationale” for accommodations.
“When it comes to a family member’s health condition, that would really be a case-by-case issue. It would depend on the health concern or risk of the family member and the risk of the individual to being exposed to COVID,” said Johnson.
In addition to the risk factors listed above, other people who would be considered at risk would include people over the age of 60 and pregnant women.
Do I need a doctor’s note to keep my child at home?
Not necessarily. A spokesperson for the province said the small number of children who are immunocompromised are likely already known to schools, but school divisions and independent schools can request a note if needed.
As Roussin said on Aug. 27: “For a decision that would [mean] you can’t go to school for an entire year because of a medical problem, I think that should be reviewed by a medical practitioner.”
Doctors will be expected to “follow and stay current with what is published by Shared Health and Manitoba Public Health and carefully consider the risks for children and members of their family. Doctors must only provide a note if it is medically indicated,” said Dr. Anna M. Ziomek, registrar and CEO of the College of Surgeons and Physicians of Manitoba.
Ultimately, these decisions will be made by Manitoba Education policies, with input from public health officials, Roussin said.
CBC News has requested comment from Manitoba Education but did not receive a response before deadline.
Ontario reports 491 new COVID-19 cases – InsideHalton.com
TORONTO — Ontario is reporting 491 new cases of COVID-19 and two more deaths from the illness.
It’s the highest daily increase in cases reported in Ontario since early May.
Health Minister Christine Elliott says 137 cases were reported in Toronto, 131 cases in Peel Region and 58 each in Ottawa and York Region.
She says 63 per cent of the day’s new cases are among people under the age of 40.
In total, 112 people are hospitalized in Ontario due to COVID-19, including 28 in intensive care.
Elliott says the province conducted 42,500 tests since the last daily report.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Sept. 27, 2020.
By The Canadian Press
Avoid gatherings, warn experts as 896 new COVID-19 cases reported in Quebec – Montreal Gazette
Article content continued
His 15-year-old daughter Noa, a Grade 10 student at Villa Maria High School, said students her age “aren’t the best at following certain measures.”
“Our class sizes have increased and after school, when the bell rings, the hallways are jam-packed,” she said.
Dubé said Friday that Quebec has no plan to impose a second lockdown, in part because of fears that more people would instead gather in private homes.
But Kaufman warned that if people don’t limit their social contacts, more stringent measures could result.
“Further restrictions of bars, restaurants and other businesses are likely if things don’t turn a corner soon, and that will be tough for businesses that have already suffered a lot,” he said.
Quebec reported four new deaths Sunday, of which two were in the past 24 hours and the others between Sept. 20-25. Quebec’s death toll now stands at 5,825. Seven deaths were reported Saturday.
There were 216 people hospitalized for the virus Sunday, of whom 41 were in intensive care.
A total of 27,380 people tested on Friday, for a cumulative total of 2,260,835 people tested to date.
Kaufman said that while cases were concentrated in Montreal during the first wave in the spring, now they are more evenly spread across the province.
Montreal reported 1,542 new cases in the past week, for a cumulative total of 32,939. Two people died of COVID-19 in Montreal in the past week, and 31 people were hospitalized.
51 new cases of COVID-19 announced in Manitoba on Sunday – CBC.ca
There are 51 new cases of COVID-19 in Manitoba on Sunday, the province says in a news release, including 36 in the Winnipeg health region.
Another eight new cases are in the Interlake-Eastern Health region, and four are in the Southern Health region, the release says. Two new cases are in the Northern Health region and the remaining one is in the Prairie Mountain Health region.
More information will be released about the new cases if a risk to public health is identified.
There are 13 people hospitalized with COVID-19 in the province, the release says, including six in intensive care.
Five of those people, or a little over one-third, are attributed the Winnipeg health region, according to provincial data. Two of those people are in intensive care.
There are three people hospitalized with the illness are linked to the Prairie Mountain Health region (with two in intensive care) and three are attributed to the Southern Health region (with one in intensive care).
There is one person hospitalized with COVID-19 from the Northern Health region, and one person from the Interlake-Eastern health region is in intensive care.
Manitoba’s five-day test positivity rate — a rolling average of the proportion of COVID-19 tests that come back positive — is down slightly to 2.2 per cent, the release says.
There are now 589 active cases of the illness in Manitoba, including 490 — or 83 per cent — in the Winnipeg health region, according to provincial data.
There have been 1,880 cases of COVID-19 detected in Manitoba, the release says; 1,272 have recovered and 19 have died.
Masks being distributed
Manitoba Families will give out more than 227,000 reusable masks to its clients, the release says. That will come out to two per every adult in a household, and for kids aged five to nine. Older kids will instead get masks through their school or child-care provider, the release says.
That distribution will start in Winnipeg and continue across Manitoba in the coming weeks.
Starting Monday, people in Winnipeg and 17 surrounding communities will have to wear masks in all public indoor spaces and cap gatherings at 10 as the region moves to the orange — or “restricted” — level under the province’s pandemic response system.
The new rules will stay for at least four weeks, Manitoba’s top doctor said, which is roughly two incubation periods of the illness.
That timeframe, announced by Chief Provincial Public Health Officer Dr. Brent Roussin on Friday, includes Thanksgiving. The holiday falls on Oct. 12 this year.
The province is still working to increase capacity and reduce wait times at sites in Winnipeg as demand for COVID-19 testing spiked in response to increasing cases in the region.
On Saturday, 2,200 COVID-19 tests were done in Manitoba. There have now been 178,067 tests completed in the province since early February, the release says.
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