The document from the Nova Scotia Department of Health and Wellness shows 694 cases were connected to schools as potential exposure sites, and union president Paul Wozney wants to know what the plan will be to ensure this isn’t the case come September.
“We know there was community spread in schools,” said Wozney.
“The Minister (of Education Derek Mombourquette) has commented, ‘We never had any community spread’ but we’ve heard Dr. Strang say on numerous occasions there were instances of community spread.”
The NSTU posted the COVID-19 exposures report to its Twitter page, which identified all potential exposure locations of positive COVID-19 cases from March 2020 until April 29, 2021.
With 694 possible COVID-19 exposures at schools, this number leads the list of exposures in public spaces as laid out in the report. The list also includes 375 possible exposures in workplaces and 223 possible exposures in retail shopping centres.
The Department of Health and Wellness responded to the teachers union post saying, “This does not mean 694 people acquired COVID-19 at schools. When a new case of COVID-19 is identified, public health investigates each case to determine a likely source of infection.”
The department emphasized that there can be multiple exposure locations for each positive case.
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Mombourquette declined an interview request but the Department of Education issued a statement, reiterating that there can be multiple exposure locations for each positive case and that schools were not a significant source of transmission during the pandemic.
Spokesperson Andrew Preeper said they are currently working on the return-to-school plan but confirmed mandatory vaccination for students and staff won’t be implemented.
“Dr. Strang has said that schools, like other environments, are a reflection of community epidemiology, but that they have not been a significant source of transmission during the pandemic,” wrote Preeper.
“We know students, parents and staff are eager to hear more about plans for the upcoming school year. Like last year, this is a collaborative approach with Public Health, as well as our education partners including the NSTU and PSAANS (Public School Administrators Association of NS). This work is underway and we expect to share more in the coming weeks.”
Wozney says the teachers union hasn’t heard from the education minister since May and says they’ve yet to speak with the Department of Education on any plans for September.
“There are no substantive discussions between the NSTU and the Department of Education,” said Wozney.
“The conversation we are having with the department are certainly not pandemic based at this time.”
The department says it has established a learning continuity group that includes membership from Public Health and education partners including the NSTU and they met more than 85 times over the course of the pandemic, said Preeper in an email and the group has since met twice this week, to specifically discuss the return to school plan for September.