Right Steps & Poui Trees


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Cases Reported of a Possible Exposure to Covid-19 in Schools?

During his statement in Parliament on Tuesday (Nov 16, 2021), while announcing changes to the Covid-19 measures, PM Andrew Holness briefly mentioned cases of children with possible exposure to Covid-19 and how this was dealt with by schools.

Speaking about the country as a whole, he said:

“We are being very cautious in reopening and, just to be clear, we are not going to shut down again.”

He then went on to say:

“So, Madam Speaker, we have reopened our schools. We have seen cases reported of a possible exposure to Covid-19. We haven’t shut them when they have opened. We tell them to sanitise, clean up, isolate the child, keep them at home. But we are not going to close the schools again.”

These cases referred to by the Prime Minister – of possible Covid exposure in children in schools – haven’t been reported in the media nor to general public by the Ministry of Education, Youth and Information (MOEYI) or by the Ministry of Health and Wellness (MOHW). In his statement, PM Holness gave no other information about these cases…what schools or parishes they occurred in, when they occurred or how many children or schools were affected, for example.

Other questions needing answers include:

  • Has information about these cases been reported to the parents, guardians or families in the schools where these cases occurred?
  • Were the children who were possibly exposed to Covid-19 tested to see if they actually had Covid-19?
  • Were the other children and teachers in their class or in the school also tested?
  • Was any contact tracing done?

And a more general question needs to be asked about what exactly the protocol is when schools have a child in attendance who was possibly exposed to Covid-19, beyond what PM Holness mentioned…”We tell them to sanitize, clean up, isolate the child, keep them at home.”

There is very little specific information in the MOEYI’s Manual for the Reopening of Educational Institutions – Version 3, August 2021 on how suspected/confirmed cases of Covid-19 in students or staff are to be dealt with. And there is no mention of testing. Perhaps it is set out in detail elsewhere. It would be good to know.

PBCJ recording of the sitting of the House of Representatives on November 16, 2021


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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.