Despite closures elsewhere in Canada, schools in Saskatchewan are remaining open at this time, the province said Sunday.
The province said any decision to close schools is made on the advice of Saskatchewan’s chief medical health officer, Dr. Saqib Shahab.
“Any recommendation to close schools is based on risk assessment and made on a case-by-case basis,” Shahab said in a statement.
“The decision to close schools should not be made in the absence of valid public health reasons and the benefits and risks need to be considered carefully.”
Government officials said there are several factors that are taken into consideration before closing schools.
The criteria include evidence of sustained transmission within the community, a rapid increase of local cases and transmission without a known link to travel or confirmed cases.
The six presumptive cases in Saskatchewan at this time are still primarily travel-related and there is no sustained community transmission at the moment, officials said.
School closures could happen locally on the direction of the local medical health officer or more broadly on the direction of the chief medical health officer, they added.
The Saskatchewan NDP said while it supports the decision to keep schools open at this time, it is calling on the government to ensure supports are in place for the inevitable.
“It’s a matter of not if, but when, which means the time to be preparing is now,” said NDP Leader Ryan Meili in a statement.
We’re calling on the government to do everything they can to minimize and mitigate the risks in schools today, and to prepare all necessary supports for eventual closure.”
Meili said that includes ensuring there is enough cleaning supplies, allowing staff who need to self-isolate to do so without having to use sick days, and for wage support for everyone affected by closures.
Patrick Maze, president of the Saskatchewan Teachers’ Federation (STF), said they were not invited to a recent meeting to discuss how the COVID-19 situation is affecting education.
“There was a Saskatchewan Education sector meeting held the other day to discuss sector preparation for the COVID-19 pandemic. The STF was not invited to the meeting,” Maze said in a Facebook post.
“So, understandably, if provincial plans to date seem to exclude teacher voice and teacher concerns, that is because the only group specifically legislated to represent teachers in Saskatchewan, the STF, was deliberately excluded from bringing your concerns to that conversation.”
Maze said they have called Education Minister Gordon Wyant’s office to express their concerns, and said the STF was invited to a meeting.
“Please appreciate that this is a very fluid situation — but know that your personal safety will be considered and strongly represented as we all work together as community leaders throughout this challenging time,” Maze said.
Shahab reiterated Sunday morning the need for all international travellers, including those from the United States, to self-isolate and monitor their health for 14 days upon returning to Saskatchewan.
Travellers returning to the province from within Canada are being advised only to self-monitor for 14 days, he added.
Concerned about COVID-19? Here are some things you need to know:
Symptoms can include fever, cough and difficulty breathing — very similar to a cold or flu. Some people can develop a more severe illness. People most at risk of this include older adults and people with severe chronic medical conditions like heart, lung or kidney disease.
To prevent the virus from spreading, experts recommend frequent handwashing and coughing into your sleeve. And if you get sick, stay at home.
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