Right Steps & Poui Trees


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Ministry of Education’s Manual for the Reopening of Educational Institutions – Version 3, August 2021

The most recent version of the Ministry of Education, Youth & Information’s (MOEYI) Manual for the Reopening of Educational Institutions – Version 3, dated August 2021 – isn’t currently posted on the Ministry’s website. I have only been able to find Version 1, dated May 2020.

I am posting a copy here because I think it would be useful for people to take a look and see what the Ministry has set out as the conditions under which schools should reopen, particularly considering the resumption of in person classes.

I’ll just share a few of my thoughts as I looked at the manual:

  • Overall there does not seem to be adequate attention paid to the airborne transmission of the SARS-CoV-2 virus, with more attention being paid to the sanitization of hands and surfaces, than to what is now known about aerosol transmission. I say this despite the section on masks.
  • The distance recommended for children in schools – desks, seating, removal of masks in classroom, etc. – is 3 ft. This is mentioned in multiple places in the document; an example here on page 11:

Yet in a section on page 34 dealing with protocols for the administrative staff, the distance referred to is the familiar recommended 6 ft:

In other situations outside of schools, social distancing of 6 ft is required. Why is 3ft considered safe for children indoors in schools, given what is now known about the airborne nature of the virus and in the context of the more transmissible Delta variant? Even the 6ft distancing raises concerns in indoor spaces for extended periods, where ventilation is inadequate.

  • Very little attention is paid in the manual to the issue of ventilation of classrooms and other spaces.
  • The section on Management of the Sick (pp 9-11) starts by saying “Develop and implement mechanisms to monitor staff and students who may become ill”, but doesn’t set out specifically the mechanisms that are required.
  • This bullet point on p. 9 deals with the requirement for an area to temporarily separate sick students and staff, which adheres to MOHW guidelines but doesn’t indicate where these guidelines are laid out.

This would seem to be a very important protocol to be specific about – how to deal with members of the school community who are ill, where there is the possibility that they may have Covid-19.

  • There is also the issue of reporting where there are confirmed cases of Covid-19:

No definition is given of “a school wide outbreak”? How many cases would constitute a school wide outbreak? How would they need to be distributed across the school? Would you not need to report individual cases before an outbreak became school wide, perhaps to prevent it from becoming school wide? And this speaks about reporting to the MOHW and the education regional office, but what about reporting to the school community, to the parents/guardians so that they are alerted that their child may have been exposed and therefore other members of the family as well?

  • There is no mention of testing protocols within schools, either on a routine basis or in the event of confirmed or suspected cases.
  • The section on Transportation on page 16 says very little about public transportation and the risk it poses to children who use it going to and from school. The MOHW has pointed to public transportation as one of the serious spreaders of Covid-19 infections. What measures are being taken by MOEYI and MOHW in anticipation of the increased cases of Covid-19 that are likely to result with the increased use of public transportation by children? How is this risk being dealt with?
  • Have the principals received the handbook about the use of Shadows, which is promised on page 19? Has a copy been made available to families whose children have Shadows?

These are some of the thoughts and questions that I have about the manual; there are others.

I am including below a copy of Version 1 of the Manual, dated May 2020.


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Kingston: A green city or a concrete jungle?

Architect Ann Hodges has a letter in today’s Gleaner, a letter which focuses on the developments taking place on the street on which she lives – Lady Musgrave Road. In it, she expresses concerns that many people have, myself included, about the nature of some of the building that is taking place across the city. I have printed the letter in full below.

Letter of the Day – Highway or avenue?

THE EDITOR, Madam:

Why do we put so much money and effort into making roads better for cars and practically no money into making roads and sidewalks better for people?

It has become clear that we need a radically different approach to urban roads and transport. A transport system that relies on motor cars to move people through the city (good though it may be for revenue collection on import duty and fuel tax) is not sustainable.

The city is heating up due to trees making way for asphalt and concrete. Jamaicans need to consider how we can contribute to the fight against global warming and climate change, and providing shade and good public transport in our cities would be a good start.

I recently took a walk from one end of Lady Musgrave Road in St Andrew to the other. In some places the sidewalk is blocked by branches and rubbish, and sometimes the sidewalk disappears altogether and pedestrians are forced into the carriageway to cross over a gully or drain.

For a few sections, there are street trees, the last remaining survivors of the trees planted in middle of the last century. For these short shady sections, it was a pleasant walk. Vendors and other pedestrians were friendly and curious to know what a white woman like me was doing walking rather than driving.

WIDEN TO WHAT END?

Lady Musgrave Road, like many in cities throughout the world, is a street lined with a mix of commercial and residential uses and could, therefore, potentially be much more than a highway across town.

If we were to develop the sidewalks, with an even surface, plant trees to cool and remove the obstacles and heaps of trash, Lady Musgrave Road could be a beautiful pedestrian and vehicular boulevard, leading from Old Hope Road to the gates of King’s House, with views of Vale Royal on the way.

The Government has announced that Lady Musgrave Road is to be widened to two lanes in each direction. This will leave even fewer sidewalks and no trees. We have to ask, to what end?

Traffic on Lady Musgrave is currently moderate except at peak hours. At peak hours, as a Jamaican traffic engineer currently practicing in DC has explained, the capacity of Lady Musgrave to move traffic is dependent on how many vehicles can leave the road at its ends. We can stack vehicles two abreast along Lady Musgrave, but it will not help if they cannot then get through the lights at Hope Road.

Also, as we have seen elsewhere, a four-lane highway becomes a racetrack off peak, which leads our engineering team wanting to put up concrete barriers to avoid head-on collisions! This is a vicious cycle and not a viable solution.

LACK OF JOINED-UP PLANNING

Jamaica and Kingston are suffering from a lack of joined-up planning. We are seeing a race to high-density development without any plans in place for the parks or walkable streets that would allow residents to access services.

Why does the National Works Agency plan for vehicles without planning for pedestrians? What is our transport policy? Why are we not planning for a public urban transport system that even an MP or CEO would be comfortable using?

I speak of the street where I live but the principle and situation are the same throughout the city.

Kingston has a choice between being a green city or a concrete jungle. At present, the Government and developers, with the acquiescence of the planners, seem to have chosen concrete.

ANN HODGES

Lady Musgrave Road


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Chief Medical Officer’s Covid-19 Update for Oct 7, 2021

Jamaica’s Ministry of Health & Wellness (MOHW) had established a practice of weekly Covid-19 press conferences, usually held on Thursday evenings. For the past few months, however, this weekly practice has been less reliable, with gaps of a week or more occurring between press conferences. This was particularly problematic during the height of the current wave of the pandemic; fueled by the Delta variant, it has been the worst of the three waves Jamaica has experienced.

Yesterday was Thursday and I tweeted the MOHW a question about whether there would be a Covid Conversation (what the press conferences have been called for some time) and they responded saying no. This actually wasn’t much of a surprise, given that there had been a press conference last week and that the Ministry had been facing a lot of pressure and criticism from the public and in Parliament this week.

What was a surprise was to learn last night, via a Twitter thread by Gleaner journalist Jovan Johnson, that CMO Dr Bisasor-Mckenzie had given a recorded Covid-19 update, which was sent to the media by MOHW. This is not a common practice.

I am glad that this update was given. It is not a true substitute for a live press conference, but it does give the public some additional important information. Neither the text nor the video recording of the update has yet been posted online on the MOHW website. It was said that the video recording would be released by the Jamaica Information Service(JIS), but I have not seen a link on the JIS website. This all shows immediately the difference in access by the public compared to when MOHW press conferences are carried live by Public Broadcasting Corporation of Jamaica (PBCJ) and immediately posted on their YouTube channel. PBCJ has actually used some of the CMO’s recording in their news roundup today and in a special report.

I have posted here a copy of the text of the CMO’s update:

To illustrate the way in which these updates add to the information given in the daily MOHW Clinical Management Summaries, I will refer to this chart I compiled using some of the figures given in these summaries.

The hospitalization numbers in the daily reports show a strong downward trend but in her update yesterday, CMO Bisasor-McKenzie noted that daily hospital admissions have been increasing in the past week.

And she made the added comment, “This means that despite the trending down of hospitalizations, if the trend for admissions going up continues, our bed occupancy will increase.” This changes the perspective of our current situation somewhat.

Also of particular note in yesterday’s update are the comments about the delay in the availability of the 2nd dose of the Pfizer vaccine.

With so many ongoing issues, questions and concerns, it would be useful for MOHW to return to regular, weekly press conferences.

For convenience, I have included the statement below as well.


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Disaster Risk Management Order No. 10 Amendment – Dated Sept 25, 2021

A brief amendment to the current Disaster Risk Management Order No. 10 came into effect on September 25, 2021. I have posted a copy of the gazetted amendment below.

It is posted on the websites of the Office of the Prime Minister and the Ministry of Justice.