Another year of COVID: Canadian students return to class with questions masked

Thousands of Canadian children are returning to class this week for their fourth pandemic school year, hungry for some semblance of normalcy after years of turmoil that many families fear is not yet over.

Students in most parts of the country resume classes on Tuesday or Wednesday, although Saskatchewan and Alberta reopened last week. The lack of many COVID-19 restrictions is widely common among returnees — by and large, masks are optional, signed screening sheets are gone, and in-person classes trump remote options.

Still, uncertainty dominated Sophia Roper’s back-to-school preparation as she took her 11-year-old granddaughter Jazmine shopping last week, and she expressed frustration at the lack of mask mandates and to the seemingly contradictory public health advice of Ontario’s top doctor, Kieran Moore.

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“(He) said fall is coming and everyone is going to be indoors _ be careful. (But) you’re telling people, ‘OK, we’re removing the mask mandate,'” said Roper, who was among the minority of shoppers wearing a mask at a Toronto mall.

“And they’re now saying we’re going to see spikes…. People are confused. People are at a point where they say, “You know what? I’m just gonna do what I want to do.

Confusion for many Ontario families intensified in recent days when Moore said those who tested positive for COVID-19 no longer needed to self-isolate for five days and could return to work or school if symptoms improved for at least 24 hours.

Moore said people should wear a mask for 10 days after symptoms appear, which, in combination with up-to-date vaccinations, should offer “a more pragmatic and practical approach… with as little disruption as we can have. in school and work environment.”

This aligns the province with several others that dropped the isolation requirement – ​​including Saskatchewan and Manitoba in March, Alberta in June and Nova Scotia in July – although health officials recommend still five days of self-isolation.

However, critics, including two major teachers’ unions, have pushed back, fearing that dropping the mandate could send more infectious children and educators back into the classroom, leading to further spread and more disruption.

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Click to play the video: “Concerns over the rise of another wave of COVID as fall approaches”

Concerns rise of another wave of COVID as fall approaches

Concerns rise of another wave of COVID as fall approaches

It’s certainly a concern for 10-year-old Lauren Tran, who said she’s been taking COVID precautions all summer and expects to cover her face when she starts 5th grade on Wednesday. in Toronto. She’s already spoken to friends and knows she won’t be the only one covering her face.

Still, Tran acknowledged that many children had ditched masks over the summer as the warm weather made for safer outdoor gatherings, and she wondered if they would put them back on if they weren’t there. obliged.

“Last year (at school) was pretty good – only, like, one or two people stopped wearing masks. But I’m a little scared this year,” admits Tran, who caught the virus last spring and says “it’s not funny at all.”

“A lot of children no longer wear masks. So I’m a little nervous but I know it’s their personal decision and I respect it.

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Saskatoon mother and pediatrician Dr. Ayisha Kurji said she saw a mix of masked and unmasked children waiting to enter the building when school returned to school last week.

Kurji advised families to equip children with the mask they can tolerate for the entire school day, acknowledging that cost is a barrier for many. She preferred tight-fitting surgical and N95 masks to reusable cloth masks.

“COVID is not over. We know that. We know that we should prepare for an increase in potential cases in the fall when we all go indoors,” said Kurji, assistant professor of pediatrics at the ‘University of Saskatchewan.

“We know the spread is higher indoors. We know masks work. We know hand washing helps and we know that if you are sick you should stay home. So even though the mandates aren’t there, the lessons haven’t changed.

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The ongoing debate over whether or not to wear masks is likely to continue in classrooms and among students, Kurji said, and she encouraged parents to talk with their children about ways to be respectful when opinions clash.

She said her advice to her own nine- and 12-year-old was: ‘Don’t ask why they don’t wear masks. If it comes up in the conversation or if they ask you, keep it short: “I feel safer this way.” Or _ if you need to _ say, “My mom makes me,” she chuckled.

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Jayda Vitorio, 15, said she didn’t like wearing a mask when it was compulsory last school year and doesn’t expect to wear one when she starts grade 10 this week at his Catholic school in Toronto.

She said she was looking forward to a somewhat normal year that will also get rid of a controversial ‘quadmestre’ system that had her sitting in extra-long classes.

Meanwhile, Vitorio’s mother Helen said she looked forward to Jayda having the chance to socialize better with friends without the added barrier that masks impose.

“I want my daughter to be free. I want her to start dating. Not, you know, being afraid of close contact,” Vitorio said.

“I don’t want her to have cold dealings with people. I want her to have a normal life, like I’ve led her. I want her to meet friends, hold hands with people. a person and that she is not afraid to get closer.

Vitorio said three years of the pandemic should have taught students enough about how to protect themselves through hand hygiene and other precautions.

She said she believes COVID-19 is here to stay, and that means finding the right balance between living life and mitigating risk.

“It’s like the flu. Some of us will get it, some of us won’t. And I think we just have to learn to live with it and accept that it’s the new norm.

© 2022 The Canadian Press


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