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COVID-19: Nova Scotia parents call for mandatory masks in elementary schools as cases rise

Click to play video: 'Petition calls for masks to remain in Nova Scotia schools' Petition calls for masks to remain in Nova Scotia schools
WATCH: Some parents in Nova Scotia are calling on the province to keep mandatory masking in elementary schools until children under 12 can be vaccinated. – Sep 13, 2021

Parents in Nova Scotia concerned over masks in schools soon becoming optional have created a petition calling on the province to reconsider their decision.

“Myself and a lot of parents feel that masks, although nobody likes them including kids — it is a simple and effective extra layer of protection that will help us keep kids in schools longer,” Paul Wareham said, a parent of an elementary school student.

Wareham says carrying on with mandatory masking will bring a wave of relief to many parents of children who are not yet eligible for a COVID-19 vaccine.

The Public Health Agency of Canada states there is no strong evidence to support supposed negative consequences of mask-wearing in children.

“The concern is that we don’t get ahead of the Delta variant. That we wait too long until the infections in the school start to ramp up,” Wareham said.

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Read more: Active case count in Nova Scotia reaches 125 as daily numbers grow

Nova Scotia is on the cusp of moving to Phase 5 of its recovery plan that would see mandatory mask requirements and gathering limits lifted.

Initially, the province planned on making masks optional in schools as soon as Phase 5 was enacted, which is currently projected for Sept. 15.

That approach was changed on Sept. 10, when Nova Scotia’s top doctor said mandatory masking would remain in schools until Sept. 20.

“I think the mask mandate should remain in place in schools and that we should be looking at temporary short-term measures to upgrade ventilation systems,” Aaron Smith added, a father of elementary school children.

Nova Scotia’s top doctor, Dr. Robert Strang, has repeatedly stated that mandatory masking will be one of the first measures that will be reintroduced if cases rise to a concerning level.

On June 2, the federal and provincial governments announced a $25 million dollar project to improve safety measures in schools. The province says about $18 million of that funding will be spent on ventilation and HVAC-related projects.

That work is expected to be completed within the school year, according to the provincial government.

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Read more: P.E.I. temporarily shutting down Charlottetown schools amid ‘concerning’ student outbreak

Smith says in the meantime, the province should invest in portable air filters being placed into classrooms with poor or no ventilation system.

The Public Health Agency of Canada also recommends that portable HEPS air filters be placed in schools with poor indoor ventilation until adequate improvements are made.

The president of the Nova Scotia Teachers Union says the union knows of three schools in the Halifax Regional Centre for Education with cases of COVID-19.

The provincial government states information on school cases will only be shared publicly if a closure is required, or public health deems it necessary.

Wozeny says that approach may lead to misinformation.

“This information will get to the broader public one way or another. And, right now, it’s ending up in the eyes of the public through social media,” he said.

Wozney says the union has sent a letter to Dr. Robert Strang, Nova Scotia’s Chief Medical Officer of Health, asking for school safety measures to be reconsidered and enhanced as the province approaches the final stage of reopening.

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