In-person schooling in Nova Scotia has been delayed another week, with kids studying online until Jan 17. Premier Tim Houston said the decision weighs heavily on him, as any disruption to in-person class harms children.
“They're the safest at school, it’s sad but it’s true. The reality for many children in the province, particularly as we move to the depths of winter, school is the place where they are most warm,” Houston said during Wednesday’s COVID briefing. Schools are also where some students need to be to access food.
“It’s heartbreaking and it’s a terrible reflection on our society but we can’t ignore it,” Houston said. The province also recognizes that socialization from the classroom is critical for kids' development, he said.
The extra week of kids staying home is expected to give the province time to have HEPA air filtration units delivered and installed in the over 70 schools that rely on passive ventilation. Passive ventilation, as opposed to active, means relying on opening windows to allow for adequate airflow. Proper ventilation can decrease the spread of airborne viruses like COVID.
Houston says he’s hopeful most classrooms that need them will have these filters by the new Jan 17 in-person start date, but cautioned that there are some concerns regarding supply chain delays. The province will also make three-ply masks available for all students and teachers in time for next week. Teachers are currently in schools for professional development ahead of the kids’ return.
“Our goal is to provide more comfort and confidence to staff and students as we continue to live with COVID,” education minister Becky Druhan said in a statement.
The province also shortened isolation requirements for vaccinated Nova Scotians Wednesday from 10 to seven days for most people.
Chief medical officer of health Robert Strang said the switch is aimed at alleviating some pressure on the workforce impacted by staff shortages.
“It will present some increased risk of COVID, but given that we’re seeing mostly relatively mild illness, I feel that’s an acceptable risk that will help minimize the overall impacts the wave is having on people, families, and almost every sector of business and our economy,” Doctor Strang said.
The CDC recently recommended a five-day isolation with testing at the end. Strang says seven days felt more cautious.
The chief medical officer also said in order to decrease exposure where possible, employers that can conduct business remotely are being asked to do so. Beginning next week, Nova Scotia’s four-day paid sick leave program comes back into effect.
The scaled back accessibility of rapid asymptomatic tests isn’t changing for now. Houston said the province is still waiting on a shipment of “several million” tests that were supposed to arrive before Jan 1. Today the federal government announced that 140 million test kits will be delivered across the country by the end of the month.
There were 842 new cases of COVID reported Wednesday, with nearly 500 of them coming from the Central zone. There are 45 people in hospital, five of these patients were admitted before the Omicron wave. Those hospitalized are between 26 and 98 years old, the average patient age is 70.