Manitoba is revising how it will define and manage COVID-19 cases in the classroom this school year.
Under the changes, school cases will now include students, staff and volunteers who were in the building either 14 days before or 10 days after they tested positive or developed symptoms, Manitoba’s chief public health officer, Dr. Brent Roussin announced Tuesday.
An outbreak will only be declared if three such cases happen in a specific cohort in a two-week span, Roussin explained, adding a risk assessment will be taken into account before sending any classes home for remote learning.
“The old definition was less specific on the number of cases and required a demonstration of further transmission after interventions were implemented at the school,” he said of the changes.
“So this new definition is anticipated to allow for more consistent reporting, but may also result in more frequent outbreaks being declared than in the past school year.”
Roussin said self-isolation requirements for close contacts at schools will also be reduced from 14 days to 10 days, to align with overall changes to public health measures announced last week.
He said in the school setting, health officials will also now consider vaccination status and both medical and non-medical mask use when assessing risk and determining isolation requirements.
The changes come after schools reopened across the province starting Sept. 8.
Meanwhile, a senior education official confirmed Tuesday that unvaccinated teachers will be required to undergo three rapid antigen tests per week after a soft vaccination mandate for staff kicks in at the end of October.
And for now, the province says it will foot the bill for the costs of testing unvaccinated teachers.
Manitoba announced 66 new COVID-19 cases and one death linked to the virus across the province Tuesday.
A provincial website reporting school-aged cases and cases in school staff showed there’s been 56 cases in the last 14 days as of Monday, including 47 cases in students and 9 staff. The site says there are currently 38 schools with one or more case reported across the province.
— with files from Skylar Peters
Questions 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. If you develop symptoms, contact public health authorities.
To prevent the virus from spreading, experts recommend frequent handwashing and coughing into your sleeve. They also recommend minimizing contact with others, staying home as much as possible and maintaining a distance of two metres from other people if you go out. In situations where you can’t keep a safe distance from others, public health officials recommend the use of a non-medical face mask or covering to prevent spreading the respiratory droplets that can carry the virus. In some provinces and municipalities across the country, masks or face coverings are now mandatory in indoor public spaces.
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