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Should Quebec drop mask mandates in schools?

Click to play video: 'COVID-19: Is it too soon to lift mask restrictions in Quebec schools?' COVID-19: Is it too soon to lift mask restrictions in Quebec schools?
WATCH: Is it time for kids to stop wearing masks in school? Quebec public health officials are seriously considering it. Protesters have been demanding it. But as Dan Spector reports, others argue it's still too soon – Feb 21, 2022

Could masks covering childrens’ faces in school soon be a thing of the past?

The virus is trending downward, and in a recent interview with La Presse, Quebec Public Health Director Dr. Luc Boileau said his department is taking a serious look at the question.

“This is a very divisive issue. Parents are very aggressive, on both sides of the fence,” said Kathy Korakakis, President of Quebec’s English Parents Committee Association.

Korakakis said about 60 per cent of committee members want masks to remain a while longer, while 40 per cent seem to want them gone.

Montreal Childrens’ Hospital pediatric infectious diseases expert Dr. Christos Karatzios, though, thinks that there is no doubt — it’s too soon to end mask mandates.

“We are seeing an uptick over in countries that have completely relaxed the rules and declared the pandemic over, like Denmark, for instance. We have to be careful,” he said.

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READ MORE: Quebec adds 3 new COVID-19 deaths as hospitalizations rise

Karatzios told Global News though infections have been on a downward trend, they have not yet plateaued at a low level. He worries at this stage, officials may be forced to bring masks back sooner than later.

“This constant yo-yo back and forth that has happened during the pandemic is actually worse for public confidence in our institutions,” Karatzios said.

Stephanie McLellan of the Laurier Teachers’ Union called removing mask mandates now “premature.” She thinks they should remain at least until windows can be opened without letting in freezing cold air.

READ MORE: COVID-19: ‘Quebec will not abandon its efforts’ amid lagging vaccination rates among young kids

“I think teachers have had it rough in the last two years. Why exacerbate those concerns and make their work environment even less safe?” she said, pointing to how teachers had fought for the right to wear N95 masks in class during the omicron wave.

Karatzios agrees that spring would be a more optimal time to remove masks from classes because of the ability to open windows.

The low vaccination rate in children is also a factor — 65 per cent of kids aged five to 11 have received at least one dose, which is the lowest of any age group.

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Click to play video: 'Quebec lays out deconfinement plans' Quebec lays out deconfinement plans
Quebec lays out deconfinement plans – Feb 8, 2022

“They will go on to transmit to grandparents and to other vulnerable members of society, and to parents who have chosen not to be boosted, not to have their three doses,” said Karatzios.

He’s pushing back against arguments that vaccines are not as useful against omicron.

“Sixty to 65 per cent efficacy for protection against any type of infection is still a significant amount,” he said, and urged people to get their third doses.

Many of the anti-COVID restriction protesters in Quebec City over the weekend called for mask mandates to be ended for children, saying masks are harmful for kids’ development.

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