Education and Early Childhood Development
School and child-care winter plans announced to slow the spread of Omicron variant15 December 2021
FREDERICTON (GNB) – The provincial plans for schools and child-care facilities, which outline measures to be implemented to align with Public Health’s winter plan, were announced today. The plans for early learning and child care will come into effect on Dec. 20 and the plans for schools will come into effect when school resumes on Jan. 10.
“As we face many unknown factors in light of the Omicron variant, we have reviewed our approach and guidelines for schools and child-care facilities to ensure they are able to address this rapidly evolving situation,” said Education and Early Childhood Development Minister Dominic Cardy. “With Public Health, we have developed plans aimed at keeping our children and young people healthy, safe and learning within the classroom to the greatest extent possible throughout the winter months.”
The plans provide schools and early learning and child-care facilities with direction on operations in alignment with the province’s three-level alert system. They provide details for students in kindergarten to Grade 8, Grades 9-12, early learning facilities and after-school programs.
Among the measures under Level 1 for schools:
· whenever a case is confirmed at a school, rapid testing will be expanded to include all students in kindergarten to Grade 8 and non-vaccinated high school students;
· class groupings will be used for students in kindergarten to Grade 8;
· masks will be required indoors;
· Masks will be required outdoors, with exceptions for K-8 students who are within their grouping;
· there will be limited singing and limited use of wind instruments; and
· visitors will be limited.
For early learning and after-school child-care facilities, Level 1 measures include:
· children will be in groups of no more than 20;
· children aged two and under will not be required to wear masks;
· children aged three to five will be required to wear masks when not in their group;
· children five and older and staff will be required to wear masks unless eating or drinking;
· visitors will be limited; and
· there will be limited singing and limited use of wind instruments.
Guidelines also provide direction to schools and facilities on extracurricular activities, sports, spectators, physical education, field trips, and the use of school spaces such as the cafeteria, auditoriums, and community use of schools. The full plan is available online.
Families are reminded that rapid test kits for use during the holidays are being sent home with students. Students in kindergarten to Grade 6 will receive two kits, containing five tests per kit. Students in Grades 7-12 will be given one rapid test kit since they will not be out of school as long as the younger children. Students should rapid test every two to three days while on break, including Jan. 9, the Sunday before they return to school.
Interim measures announced on Monday, Dec. 13, remain in effect. These include:
· Organized sport and all other organized activities for children under 12 are prohibited.
· For those 12 and older, practices and skills drills are permitted involving only a single team at a time, under an operational plan that includes a reasonable effort to ensure distancing and sanitization.
· Students in kindergarten through Grade 6 will begin their holiday break on Friday, Dec.17, at the end of the regular school day. This is one week ahead of schedule.
· The last day of classes for students in Grades 7 and 8 will be Tuesday, Dec. 21.
· For students in Grades 9-12 there will be a noon dismissal on Thursday, Dec. 23.
· For the week of Dec. 20, cafeterias, assemblies and concerts will be limited to 50 per cent capacity. These events should take place virtually whenever possible. If attending in person, then families attending concerts must be vaccinated.
“We know that families want to be able to gather over the holidays,” said Cardy. “Our goal is to keep our students healthy and safe and slow the spread of COVID-19 leading into the holiday season through the interim measures we imposed on Monday, Dec. 13, along with the rapid testing program.”
Information on schools and child-care facilities impacted by COVID-19 is available on the Healthy and Safe Schools website and on the COVID-19 dashboard.
Public Health reported today that 82.4 per cent of eligible New Brunswickers are fully vaccinated against COVID-19, 88.9 per cent have received their first dose, and 10.2 per cent have received a booster dose.
“Children and teens are now the largest group within the daily count of new infections and it has been a challenge to slow the spread of the virus in these age groups,” said Health Minister Dorothy Shephard. “Please follow the simple steps required to help us do this. Follow all Public Health measures, including washing your hands and wearing a mask, and get vaccinated as soon as you are eligible.”
As of today, 31 per cent of children aged five to 12 have received their first dose of a COVID-19 vaccine and more than 17,000 appointments are scheduled for that age group.
In response to the arrival of the Omicron variant in New Brunswick and elsewhere across Canada, the provincial government is reminding residents of temporary measures announced Monday, Dec. 13, to help slow the spread of transmission.
Walk-in clinics have been added in areas with high demand for those eligible for a booster dose. A full list of walk-in clinics is available online.
A detailed list of those eligible for a booster dose is also available online.
Those who are eligible for pediatric vaccinations or booster doses can schedule an appointment through a regional health authority community COVID-19 vaccination clinic through the online booking system or at a participating pharmacy. In addition, those over the age of 12 who have not yet received a first or second dose remain eligible for COVID-19 vaccination.
70 recoveries / 160 new cases
Public Health reported today that 70 people have recovered from COVID-19 and there are 160 new cases of the virus.
There are 14 people in intensive care and another 28 are in hospital for a total of 42 people hospitalized. Of those in hospital, 24 are over the age of 60 and six people are on a ventilator. There is no one under 19 hospitalized. The seven-day rolling average of hospitalizations is available on the COVID-19 dashboard. Six of the 42 people hospitalized were initially admitted for other reasons and contracted COVID-19 due to outbreaks at hospitals in Moncton, Saint John and Miramichi. Most of these people are exhibiting mild to moderate symptoms.
The Dr. Georges-L.-Dumont University Hospital Centre’s microbiology laboratory in Moncton will continue to test identified samples to determine their COVID-19 variant.
“To date, 14 cases have been confirmed as the Omicron variant and we are awaiting confirmation of several other tests,” said Shephard. “However, seeing what is happening in other jurisdictions, we know there will be many more cases of the variant.”
The rate of people hospitalized and in ICU, as well as new cases, continues to most greatly impact people who are unvaccinated. Information about the rates of cases and hospitalizations based on vaccination status is available on the COVID-19 dashboard.
Of the new cases today, 15 are in Zone 1 (Moncton region), 59 are in Zone 2 (Saint John region), 46 are in Zone 3 (Fredericton region), four are in Zone 4 (Edmundston region), four are in Zone 5 (Campbellton region), three are in Zone 6 (Bathurst region) and 29 are in Zone 7 (Miramichi region).
Age and origin of new cases, as well as additional information, is available on the COVID-19 dashboard.
Rapid-test kit program
Rapid-test kits continue to be available across the province and plans are underway to further expand the program to make kits more accessible. More information on the rapid-test kits program and pickup locations is available online.
Rapid tests are a helpful tool in slowing the spread of COVID-19 but only reflect a person’s status at the time of testing.
All of New Brunswick is currently in the Level 1 phase of the winter plan to manage COVID-19. More information on the plan, including the increased measures, is available online.
Any household in New Brunswick with a positive case of COVID-19 must isolate for 14 days, regardless of vaccination status. Individuals advised by Public Health or a physician, including confirmed cases of COVID-19, must isolate. More information about isolation is available online.
Potential public exposure locations and dates are listed online. A map of potential public exposures can also be found on the COVID-19 dashboard.
Information and resources to help New Brunswickers live with COVID-19 is available on the COVID-19 guidance and resources webpage.
Information about testing, including booking PCR tests and using rapid tests, is available at www.gnb.ca/GetTestedCOVID19.
Travellers, including New Brunswickers returning to the province, must register their travel with the travel registration program.
Holiday guidelines for individuals, retailers and event organizers on how to plan for a happy and safe holiday season are available online.