Parents won’t know as much about COVID-19 cases at their children’s schools under new contact tracing and case management guidelines the provincial government announced Jan. 13.
Close contact notification and notification letters about individual cases will no longer be provided by schools but absenteeism will be monitored and reported on.
Students and staff who test positive on PCR or rapid antigen tests or suspect they have COVID will be expected to follow public health protocols and “strongly encouraged” to notify their schools. Anyone potentially exposed to the virus at school will be allowed to continue attending as long as they have no symptoms and people with a case in their household who are exempt from isolation requirements will be encouraged to use rapid tests to track asymptomatic transmission.
““The benefits of in-person learning can’t be understated, from mental and physical health to socialization and supports for families,” said Education Minister Cliff Cullen in a press release. “Schools have done a tremendous amount of work and have measures in place to help reduce the spread of the virus and protect our children. Schools will continue to work with public health to help mitigate the risk of the virus and keep children where they need to be – in the classroom.”
When public health determines that COVID transmission may be taking place in a school, they may recommend the use of rapid antigen testing or other preventive measures such as reducing higher-risk activities. If these do not prove effective at curbing transmission or COVID cases are affecting school operations, public health may recommend a seven-day remote learning period for a specific class, a cohort or the whole school.
“Public health officials will also continue to monitor cases in schools and work with schools to track absenteeism rates for staff and students,” said chief public health officer Dr. Brent Roussin. “This will help us target measures like rapid antigen testing programs and remote learning to specific schools as needed, rather than all having measures apply to all schools in a region.”
Manitoba Liberal leader Dougald Lamont said planning for a return to in-person school during a time of increased COVID transmission without instituting any additional safety measures is incredibly disappointing
“We’re getting another back-to-school plan written on the back of a napkin,” he said. “There are parents who do not want to send their children back and want remote learning. They should have that option, but they don’t. That is unacceptable.”