Nova Scotia should extend holiday break for public schools: NSTU prez
HALIFAX -- There have been 11 cases of COVID-19 linked to nine schools in Nova Scotia in the last two weeks.
The majority of the school-based cases are in the Halifax area, which is currently under a targeted lockdown by the provincial government, as public health officials try to slow community spread of the novel coronavirus.
Late Sunday, health officials confirmed a case of COVID-19 at Ian Forsyth Elementary School in Dartmouth, N.S., and Berwick and District School in the Annapolis Valley.
"The answer here in second wave isn't to shut everything down and react once COVID arrives. It's to create schools that are COVID resistant," said Paul Wozney, the president of the Nova Scotia Teachers Union.
Wozney says, in order to create COVID-resistant schools, class sizes need to be reduced, everybody in schools need to be fully physically distanced, there has to be proper ventilation and hand-washing stations in every classroom and everyone who can wear a mask, needs to.
He also thinks government should consider extending the holiday break -- an idea being floated around by some other provinces, like Quebec and New Brunswick.
"Given where staff and students are right now, I mean they are just, they're the walking dead. People are not enjoying school, they're surviving school right now," he said.
The Education Department says, at this time, there are no plans to change the holiday schedule, but that all options would be considered as they monitor the COVID-19 situation.
According to Dr. Robert Strang, the province's chief medical officer of health, the second wave of COVID-19 started in Nova Scotia on Oct. 1.
At this time, no cases of the novel coronavirus are being linked to any long-term care homes in the provinces.
Northwood's Halifax campus became the epicenter of an outbreak of COVID-19 in Nova Scotia during the first wave. CEO Janet Simm says overall, the system is better prepared this wave because more is known about the virus.
"We know that one of the key learnings is about the incubation period and about the asymptomatic spread," said Simm. "Certainly in our outbreak at Northwood Halifax it was introduced by staff and we know our staff live in communities so what happens in communities impacts our ability to keep the virus out of our building."
During the first wave, one of Northwood's biggest challenges was a dramatic loss of staff. Simm says additional staff, called the pandemic response team, are being hired and that the only residents sharing rooms at this point in time are those who choose to.
"We're trying to avoid a second wave at all costs but our staff are feeling ready. There are no guarantees. This is a very, very tricky virus but we're doing everything we possibly can to prevent another outbreak and prepare ourselves in the event that we do see another outbreak at any of our facilities," she said.