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N.S. child care sector continues calls on government to publicly report COVID-19 case numbers

Click to play video: 'Concern about COVID-19 in Nova Scotia childcare settings' Concern about COVID-19 in Nova Scotia childcare settings
Several schools in Nova Scotia this year have already closed their doors temporarily due to rising COVID-19 cases in their community. But while the province publicly reports exposures in schools and information about closures, the same isn’t true for the childcare sector, where many children remain ineligible for vaccines because of their age. Alexa MacLean reports. – Dec 6, 2021

Five Nova Scotia public schools within the Halifax Regional Centre for Education have temporarily closed since September because of COVID-19 cases.

Elementary school students in grades 2 to 5 have moved to at-home learning at Beechville Lakeside Timberlea Senior Elementary until Dec. 10.

Public health recommends a school temporarily close when epidemiology points to it as necessary in order to contain further spread of the virus.

Public school closures and exposures are regularly posted online by the provincial government after they heeded calls from parents earlier this year to share case numbers.

The union representing about 200 Early Childhood Educators in Nova Scotia says that sector has also been hit hard during the fourth wave.

“There have been children that have not been attending, there are a lot of short staff because there’s not enough staff to go around, even pre-COVID, and it’s only getting worse now,” said Naomi Stewart, CUPE Nova Scotia’s child care coordinator.

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Read more: Timberlea Senior Elementary School shutting down for week to curb COVID-19 spread

Stewart says the sector continues to call on the government to publicly share case numbers in child care centres so that the broader public has an understanding of the toll the virus is taking on the front lines of child care.

“It gives people a false sense of security that there is no cases in childcare centres, when actually, that’s not the case,” she said.

An interview request with the provincial minister of education and early childhood development was declined.

An email statement was sent instead by a communications adviser for the department.

“When there is a case of COVID-19 connected to a child care centre, every family and staff member is notified by Public Health. Due to the numbers and how parents interact with centers, we can be confident that everyone receives communication if necessary,” wrote Jenna MacQueen.

Read more: Nova Scotia opens COVID-19 vaccine bookings for children aged 5 to 11

The statement adds that public reporting of cases in schools is required because they are larger facilities than child care centres.

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Stewart feels the province should reconsider its position given the stress that many early childhood educators are under in order to adhere to public health measures when there are exposures.

“Even the places that do have sick time, we’ve been using the sick time because of quarantines, and because of illnesses and such. So, it doesn’t matter — they’re all being stressed out and they’re short-staffed to begin with,” she said.

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