The province of Manitoba has announced that schools will no longer provide close contact notification and notification letters on individual cases but will provide reports of absenteeism through their regular notification channels to their school community.
Schools will be monitoring student and staff absenteeism rates and self-reported cases. However, public health will continue to report confirmed cases through the online dashboard and monitor confirmed cases in schools to see if there is evidence of increased transmission above levels expected in the community.
Recommendations will be made by public health on an individual basis for schools that show above-average levels of transmission, absenteeism, case counts, or operational concerns. These recommendations could include periods of increased rapid antigen testing or reducing high-risk activities. In cases where COVID-19 activity continues to increase, more extreme measures, such as a seven-day remote learning period, could be taken.
Students and staff who test positive are still required to follow all provincial self-isolation guidelines. Those who are exposed at school can continue to attend as long as they are asymptomatic.
The minister noted the announcement builds on a number of actions and investments to protect students and staff in schools including:
- Implementing a rapid testing program for asymptomatic teachers, staff, and kindergarten to Grade 12 students at Manitoba schools experiencing high case numbers or high levels of absenteeism;
- Expanding rapid testing for symptomatic staff at schools to include vaccinated and unvaccinated staff;
- Moving schools to the Restricted (Orange) level on the Pandemic Response System to ensure enhanced cleaning measures are in place and schools are ensuring two meters of physical distancing to the greatest extent possible;
- Providing 500,000 rapid tests for students from kindergarten to Grade 6 to test for COVID-19 as they return to school;
- Providing $6 million for medical masks that meet Health Canada performance requirements as well as other personal protective equipment;
- Offering COVID-19 vaccinations at schools including after-school clinics for students, teachers, and community members;
- Providing an additional $6.8 million in funding to support over 200 short-term operating improvements related to air purification, including filters, units, and systems;
- Investing in mental health supports for students and staff; and
- Providing $45 million in the Safe Schools Fund to help address COVID-19 related expenditures in schools, of which $30 million has been allocated by school divisions to support learning impacts, mental health, and well-being including hiring additional teachers, educational assistants, and clinicians.
For more information on COVID-19 and measures in place to address the spread of the virus in schools click here.