As New Brunswick, much like the rest of the country, finds its way through the sixth wave of COVID-19 with no restrictions, some parents are raising concern about the health of young children.
“It’s so heartbreaking, they’re so little,” said Shoshanna Wingate, a Sackville poet laureate and mother.
When Windgate stopped by a third grade classroom last week to teach a class, she said she couldn’t believe how many students were out sick — and how many still present had what she called symptoms of COVID-19.
“There were kids that were lying on the floor, there were kids that just had their heads down on the desk. One kid threw up in class,” Windgate said.
She added none of the visibly sick students were wearing masks.
They haven’t had to — and parents haven’t had to report cases to schools — since March when the province lifted most of its restrictions, including those in classrooms.
In April, New Brunswick’s child, youth and seniors advocate recommended the province revisit its decision to lift measures in schools.
Kelly Lamrock made the comments in an April 22 report, saying the government took the decision without providing the evidence, projections and measurements to justify the move to lift restrictions March 14.
He also said the government should put in place a plan to monitor student safety and staff absenteeism.
Deputy chief medical officer of health Dr. Yves Léger said “there’s no plan to reinstitute measures in schools at this point in time.”
But Léger said the department is planning to respond to Lamrock’s recommendation, he just doesn’t know when.
He said he encourages families to talk about what measures they want to take. “It’s certainly important for parents I think to have those discussions with their kids, around what their level of risk and the level of risk in their families as well,” he said.
“Make those decisions together.”
As the province released its latest weekly epidemiology report on Tuesday, Léger said the trends were “encouraging.”
The report said 1,004 new PCR-confirmed cases were recorded, including 28 cases in children under the age of 10. Another 838 positive rapid tests were also reported in the period of May 8 to May 14.
There are now 35 active COVID-19 hospitalizations, though public health only reports hospitalizations for complications with the virus, not the amount of people currently in hospital who are infected.
“We’ve really been abandoned,” said Shoshanna Wingate, adding she is not optimistic things will change at a systemic level.
“I don’t blame the teachers… They’re in an impossible situation. They have to show up every day as well, and they have to show up facing infection as well,” said Windgate.
“Parents are in a really hard situation where not everyone has the ability to keep their kids home. I really blame the government for this.”
She said she put in a lot of work and planning into her guest teaching, for what she calls an “enrichment opportunity” for the children. Though she felt unsafe, Windgate also said turning down a paid job is often not an option for artists like herself.
Windgate said she is thankful to have tested negative since her visit to the classroom.
— with files from The Canadian Press and Global News’ Karla Renic
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