Quebec parents, teachers, scientists want to see kids wearing masks when school resumes

Click to play video: 'COVID-19: Calls growing for Quebec to change back-to-school plan'
COVID-19: Calls growing for Quebec to change back-to-school plan
WATCH: Quebec laid out its back-to-school plan before the summer holidays anticipating a return to normal for students. Under the plan there would be no class bubbles and masks would not be required providing the vaccination rate is above 75 per cent. But as the new school year approaches, there are growing calls to change that plan. Global’s Dan Spector reports. – Aug 2, 2021

School yards are empty now, but in about four weeks, kids will be flowing back.

Many are hoping students will be wearing masks when they return.

“The plan, as it stands now, is [a] back to normal plan. Things are not back to normal,” said Olivier Drouin, a father of two high school students who runs Covid Écoles Quebec, a tool that tracks cases in schools.

Back in June, Quebec announced that if 75 per cent of people 12 and older are vaccinated, including most 12- to 17-year-olds, school would be normal.

“The problem now is that it’s not clear that we’re going to reach that threshold before the start of school,” said cardiologist and epidemiologist Dr. Christopher Labos.

Education Minister Jean-François Roberge announced on June 2 that in the fall there would be no need to wear masks inside, no class bubbles, no online or hybrid learning, and full access to field trips and extra-curricular activities.

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Those announcements, he said, were contingent on the epidemiological situation and rate of vaccination.

Less than a month from the start of school, 66 per cent of Quebecers are fully vaccinated. Meanwhile, 84 per cent have at least one dose and 37 per cent of those aged 12 to 17 have two doses. Of that age group, 81 per cent has at least one dose.

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The more transmissible Delta variant is also a concern to experts.

“The Delta variant is a game-changer in the sense that it will definitely be more if it is more infectious, not only to children but adults as well,” said virology professor Benoit Barbeau.

With that backdrop, scientists, parents and teachers all agree that masks should not disappear indoors.

“Masks should probably be worn, in the very least, on school buses and in the hallways,” said Heidi Yetman, president of the Quebec Provincial Association of Teachers.

“Having kids wear masks is one of the simplest things in the world and probably one of the most effective,” said Labos.

“The mask is a very low cost and highly effective measure,” said Drouin.

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The Centers for Disease Control in the United States just announced it recommends masks in school this fall, as did the American Academy of Pediatrics.

Back in June, Quebec said it would update its plan in August, and the health ministry confirmed to Global News discussions are ongoing and the government will have news in the first half of the month.

The Lester B. Pearson School Board said it is awaiting word from the government.

“At this point it’s premature to comment since, as you mentioned, the government and public health officials have yet to issue their directives/guidelines for the return to school,” said board spokesperson Darren Becker.

Click to play video: 'Experts warn Delta variant wave will hit unvaccinated kids'
Experts warn Delta variant wave will hit unvaccinated kids

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