The federal government will be releasing mask guidelines for children returning to school amid the novel coronavirus pandemic by the end of the week, chief public health officer Theresa Tam said.
Speaking to reporters on Tuesday, she said the guidelines will recommend face coverings for kids aged 10 and up.
“The recommendations will undergo evolution as the evidence changes and we’ll also have to see what happens as we understand transmission in different age groups and what happens in schools.” said Tam.
“We may have to adapt this recommendation as we go along.”
Tam said “layers of protection” would be needed in order to ensure it would be safe for kids to return to school in the fall, including re-arranging school environments to bolster physical distancing and minimizing physical contact between teachers and students.
“Older children over the age of 10 transmit as well as an adult. Younger kids, even though they transmit at a lower likelihood, they still can transmit,” she said.
“I believe in recommending the safest way to open schools. Masks play a role.”
Tam added that schools “should” recommend wearing masks, simply because they provide an extra layer of protection. She also urged Canadians to avoid stigmatizing or singling out children who choose to wear masks in their own volition.
A spokesperson from the Public Health Agency of Canada told Global News was unable to provide more details on what the guidelines would look like, but said more details would be released by Friday.
The debate on whether kids should be wearing masks in school has been ramping up as summer comes to a close.
A poll released last week by Leger and the Association for Canadian Studies found that out of 1,524 Canadians over age 18 surveyed, almost two-thirds said they believed children returning to school should wear masks at least part of the time.
In Alberta, students in grades four to 12 will be required to wear masks in hallways and shared spaces — but not in classes that were proportionately sized.
The province’s education minister, Adriana LaGrange, said Tuesday the province would distribute roughly 1.6 million masks to 740,000 students and 90,000 staff in the fall and supply 466,000 litres of hand sanitizer to schools.
On Thursday, Ontario announced its back-to-school plan, drawing both criticism and praise from educators who claimed the province’s standard class sizes would make it difficult for kids to remain physically distant.
“One of the challenges we have in the elementary school panel (is) that our classes are big,” Craig Smith, president of the Elementary Teachers Federation of Ontario (ETFO) Thames Valley, said in a previous interview with Global News.
“The anxiety (is) we have kindergarten classes that hover around 30 students, primary classes can jump up to about 23 kids, junior grades, 28 to 29, and our intermediate classes, anywhere from 30 to 35 kids.”
Come September, the province will require students in grades 4 to 12 to wear masks, as well as provide medical masks for teachers and staff.