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Saturday, January 15

Quebec maintains schools are safe, will extend rapid testing to high schools

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Quebec insists that air quality is not a concern in the province’s schools and that enough has been done to improve poorly ventilated classrooms.

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Despite growing concerns from public health experts, Quebec maintains that it is not concerned that the air quality in its schools is contributing to the spread of COVID-19.

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In a technical briefing on Friday morning, government officials detailed the province’s back-to-school plan with a focus on what has been done to tackle ventilation in schools.

The province reiterated that it does not believe schools are a driving factor behind the transmission of COVID-19 and believes that officials have done enough to improve poorly ventilated classrooms across the network.

“We are convinced that, if the other measures are applied, the current air quality in schools is not really an important factor in terms of transmission,” said Dr. Yves Jalbert, medical director of public health protection at the Ministry. of health.

“There is always room for improvement, but not to the point where we think we are taking a risk by sending children back to school. Far from there.”

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However, the province announced a change to its reopening plan. Although it previously said rapid tests would only be distributed to elementary schools, it now says high school students will receive them too.

“The situation will be corrected,” Jalbert said, adding that details are still being confirmed. “We have changed our strategy to use testing and we need to address that.”

Quebec has come under fire in recent weeks for not taking ventilation in schools seriously enough during the pandemic, and particularly now given how transmissible the Omicron variant is.

Unions, parents and experts have called for air purifiers to be installed in classrooms and for teachers and staff to be allowed to wear N95 masks at work.

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On these two aspects, the province has not changed its opinion. Throughout Friday’s technical briefing, it was repeated that Quebec experts do not believe air purifiers are an appropriate tool to limit transmission. There’s also no significant advantage to wearing N95 masks in a school setting, they said.

So far, the province has only suggested that teachers in specialist schools could wear N95 masks.

“N95 masks are widely used in the health network to fight against aerosols, small particles that can pass through the masks that we generally use,” said Jalbert, adding that they are not effective if they are not used correctly.

“In real life, the N95 mask has not proven to be superior in most situations.”

This story will be updated.

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Reference-montrealgazette.com

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