Students in Alberta and British Columbia are returning to classrooms for in-person instruction on Monday after an extended holiday break.
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Students in Alberta and British Columbia are returning to classrooms on Monday after an extended holiday break.
The question of when students should return to class, and under what conditions, has been a subject of debate across the country as provinces and territories shifted plans in the face of the fast-spreading Omicron variant.
Rapid tests and medical-grade masks will be distributed through Alberta schools, provincial officials have said, with all schools expected to have their initial shipment by the end of this week.
“Both rapid tests and masks will be shipped in phases,” read a statement issued by the province last week.
Edmonton Public Schools and the Alberta Teachers’ Association have expressed concern over the fact that the supplies won’t be on hand for everyone immediately, saying that could further exacerbate the lightning spread of Omicron cases.
Dr. Deena Hinshaw, Alberta’s chief medical health officer, has said returning to in-person learning is important for students’ mental wellness.
In British Columbia, Education Minister Jennifer Whiteside has said safety measures will include virtual assemblies, visitor restrictions, staggered break times and access to three-layered masks as schools navigate this wave of COVID-19. School attendance will be monitored and an unusual dip will trigger a response from public health, which may include an investigation, the use of rapid tests or a temporary shift to how students learn, she said.
“To help with effective information-sharing, parents are encouraged to report rapid test results to public health and to ensure they contact the school if their child is staying home because of illness,” she said.
Teri Mooring, head of the BC Teachers’ Federation, has said she would like to see teachers prioritized for COVID-19 booster shots and N95 masks, which should be available for use in schools. Enhanced masking, using HEPA filters and ensuring teachers have their third shots will support schools in staying open, she said.
The province — which had allowed some children of essential workers and learners with some disabilities back into classrooms last week — has warned there may be functional closures due to staff illness and that COVID-19 exposure notices will no longer be sent unless there are significant dips in attendance.
Health officials in Alberta and British Columbia are expected to provide updated COVID-19 data later Monday.
-From The Canadian Press and CBC News, last updated at 8:05 a.m. ET
What’s happening across Canada
WATCH | Ontario First Nation receives military help after half of community gets COVID-19:
Ontario First Nation receives military help after half of community gets COVID-19
The chief of Bearskin Lake First Nation in northern Ontario is calling for more support from the Canadian government amid a COVID-19 outbreak that has affected at least half of the residents. Four Canadian Rangers are working in the community, and four more have been promised. 1:59
With lab-based testing capacity deeply strained and increasingly restricted, experts say true case counts are likely far higher than reported. Hospitalization data at the regional level is also evolving, with several provinces saying they will report figures that separate the number of people in hospital because of COVID-19 from those in hospital for another medical issue who also test positive for COVID-19.
For more information on what is happening in your community — including details on outbreaks, testing capacity and local restrictions — click through to the regional coverage below.
You can also read more from the Public Health Agency of Canada, which provides a detailed look at every region — including seven-day average test positivity rates — in its daily epidemiological updates.
In Atlantic Canada, New Brunswick on Sunday reported one additional death and 79 hospitalizations due to COVID-19, with 16 in ICU. The update came as the province recorded 201 additional lab-confirmed cases.
Newfoundland and Labrador as of Sunday was reporting six hospitalizations from COVID-19. The province, which reported no additional deaths, saw 367 additional lab-confirmed cases.
Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island did not provide updated information on Sunday.
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In Central Canada, Quebec saw a sharp jump in COVID-19-related hospitalizations on Sunday, while numbers stayed high in Ontario. Quebec reported 23 additional deaths on Sunday, with 2,436 hospitalizations — an increase of 140 cases from a day earlier. The province, which reported just over 11,000 additional lab-confirmed cases, said 257 people were in intensive care.
Ontario, meanwhile, reported 20 additional deaths on Sunday. Health Minister Christine Elliott said on Twitter there were 2,419 people hospitalized with COVID-19, with 412 in intensive care units across the province. Elliott also reported 11,959 additional lab-confirmed cases.
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In the Prairies, Manitoba is expected to report updated COVID-19 data later Monday.
The number of patients with COVID-19 in Saskatchewan hospitals rose to 119 on Sunday, with no additional deaths reported. The province, which as of Sunday was reporting 13 ICU cases, recorded 1,099 additional lab-confirmed cases.
WATCH | As COVID-19 hospitalizations soar, Saskatchewan has started to track, and report, patients that were admitted for virus-related illness and those admitted for other reasons separately:
Sask. changes how hospitalizations are reported amid patient surge
As COVID-19 hospitalizations soar, Saskatchewan has started to track, and report, patients that were admitted for virus-related illness and those admitted for other reasons separately. 2:01
Across the North, territorial officials in Yukon, the Northwest Territories and Nunavut are expected to provide updated COVID-19 data covering the weekend later Monday.
-From The Canadian Press and CBC News, last updated at 8:05 a.m. ET
What’s happening around the world
As of early Monday morning, roughly 307.2 million cases of COVID-19 had been reported worldwide, according to Johns Hopkin University’s case tracking tool. The reported global death toll stood at more than 5.4 million.
In Europe, Britain’s prime minister is looking at cutting isolation periods to five days, while the country put its biggest private health firms on high alert to deliver crucial treatments, such as cancer surgery, should Omicron overwhelm public hospitals.
In the Asia-Pacific region, India began administering vaccine boosters to front-line workers and vulnerable elderly people, as Omicron fuelled a rapid increase in cases.
The Chinese city of Tianjin tightened exit controls and is requiring residents to obtain approval from employers or community authorities before leaving town to block the spread of Omicron.
In Africa, health officials in South Africa — one of the first countries to raise the alarm about the Omicron variant — on Sunday reported 82 deaths and 4,482 additional cases of COVID-19.
As of today the cumulative number of #COVID19 cases identified in SA is 3 526 054 with 4 482 new cases reported. Today 82 deaths have been reported bringing the total to 92 453 deaths. The cumulative number of recoveries now stand at 3 286 952 with a recovery rate of 93.2% pic.twitter.com/0vqvp84k68
In the Americas, Mexico hit a record for daily infections over the weekend and its official death toll rose to 300,334 on Sunday, while Brazil’s climbed to 619,981.
Meanwhile, in the U.S., Chicago school leaders cancelled class a fourth day in the nation’s third-largest district as negotiations with the teachers’ union over remote learning and other COVID-19 safety protocols failed to produce an agreement over the weekend.
Mayor Lori Lightfoot and Chicago Public Schools CEO Pedro Martinez said in a joint statement Sunday evening that there wasn’t “sufficient progress” in talks to resume in-person classes Monday, extending disruptions into a second school week. But they vowed negotiations would continue “through the night.”
Disputed issues included testing and metrics to close schools. The Chicago Teachers Union wants the option to revert to districtwide remote instruction, and most members have refused to teach in-person until there’s an agreement or the latest COVID-19 spike subsides. But Chicago leaders reject districtwide remote learning, saying it’s detrimental to students and schools are safe. Instead, Chicago opted to cancel classes as a whole, two days after students returned from winter break.
In the Middle East, health officials in Iran on Monday reported 37 additional deaths and 1,932 new cases.
-From Reuters, The Associated Press and CBC News, last updated at 8:05 a.m. ET