september 24, 2021
Once again, I’d like to take an opportunity to thank our staff and parents/caregivers as we continue to learn and work through both the successes and challenges of returning to in-person learning in our schools. As HSD or the Pandemic Response System plans change, we remain committed to keeping you updated. Here are some important recent updates.
Public Health Measures in Schools
As noted in Dr. Brent Roussin’s recent Letter to Parents/Caregivers, it has been 18 months since the first case of COVID-19 was detected in Manitoba. Since that time, we have faced many challenges. In response to this evolving context, changes have been made to the way cases of COVID-19 are managed in schools that focus on keeping students in school to the greatest extent possible. Schools continue to take a layered approach to health and safety.
The provincial Toolkit for Notification of Cases in Schools has been updated to reflect current public health guidance related to case/contact management. The definition of close contacts has been updated, as have isolation (quarantine) requirements. Public health officials will continue to monitor cases and transmission trends of COVID-19 in the 2021/22 school year to determine if actions should be taken or modified to prevent or control spread, including updating this guidance as necessary.
Definition of Close Contact
A close contact is defined as an individual who was within less than two metres (six feet) from the identified person, for a cumulative 10 minutes over 24 hours, during the communicable period without appropriate personal protective equipment (PPE). The use of non-medical and medical masks in the school setting will be considered in the assessment of close contacts in schools, as it is a controlled setting where other preventive measures are also in place.
A person would be considered a close contact if they had very close face-to-face interactions with someone who has COVID-19 without the use of appropriate PPE, even if the interaction was for a cumulative total of less than ten minutes. This includes people who provided care for the case or had direct contact with infectious body fluids without the use of appropriate PPE. Public health officials will verify this information. It also includes individuals who had close contact, such as hugging, sharing of food and personal items, etc.
Individuals identified as close contacts are required to self-isolate (quarantine) for ten days. After their 10-day self-isolation, they can then return to school and other activities as long as they are asymptomatic, but they should be vigilant in self-monitoring for symptoms for an additional four days.
Public health officials may exempt close contacts from self-isolation (quarantine) requirements if they are asymptomatic and are fully immunized (i.e. two weeks since their last dose of the vaccine series) at the time of exposure and do not have a medical condition (e.g., immunocompromised) that would impact vaccine effectiveness or were recently infected (i.e. within the previous six months).
Public health officials will also review whether the close contact was consistently wearing non-medical or medical masks during the period of exposure. If masks are used consistently, it may be considered low-risk. If assessed to be low-risk, students and staff will be advised to self-monitor for symptoms and may not be required to self-isolate (quarantine) if asymptomatic.
Volunteers / Community Use of Schools
Due to our region’s current COVID-19 case numbers, HSD will extend the temporary pause on allowing volunteers in schools and the community use of schools through October (with some exceptions). We will re-evaluate these safety measures later next month.
Spectators at School Sporting Events
A temporary pause has also been placed on allowing spectators to attend indoor school sporting events in our gymnasiums (i.e. volleyball). This pause will continue through till the end of October and will be reviewed on an ongoing basis. Live streams will be offered wherever possible to ensure parents/caregivers have continued viewing access. Initial streams will focus on high school teams, with middle schools to follow. Spectators at outdoor sporting events are permitted. Some restrictions may apply. Further details will be provided by your child’s school.
As always, the Hanover School Division will continue to follow the Public Health Orders and Manitoba Education guidance to ensure the safety of our students, staff, and school communities. Working together, we can keep the risk of transmission low in our schools which will help keep our schools open for in-class learning.
Shelley Amos, Interim Superintendent/CEO
Hanover School Division