P.E.I. Premier Dennis King announced Thursday that the province will extend the current health measures in place until at least Jan. 24, based on the recommendation of Dr. Heather Morrison, the province’s chief public health officer. Those measures include online learning for Island students and teachers.
“Dr. Morrison has further recommended that we continue to assess the situation on a weekly basis, with the decision each Thursday, with the desire to lift the measures as soon as it can be deemed safe to do so,” said King.
According to King, the weekly assessment will look at a number of trends connected to COVID-19, including:
the seven-day average of positive cases
the per cent positivity rate
the number of hospitalizations
the severity of the hospitalizations
the impact of the number of hospitalizations on the overall ability of the health-care system
the continued vaccine/booster rollout
“This is one of the most challenging and most contentious points of the pandemic for our education system. We are trying, with all of our might, to reopen, because we know that in-person classes are what’s best for our students,” said King.
“When we open, we want to do everything we can to stay open, because we know the starts and stops are even more challenging and troubling for students, teachers, families and staff.”
King says the province is doing everything it can to prevent disruptions when schools reopen, including regular at-home testing, masking, cohorting, the installation of HEPA filters, and social distancing.
“We know from general reports that it (online learning) has been going better this time, but we know that our students, teachers, and families need to be in school. We also know that there are many within our province that need access to additional services. The department has been working to add additional staff to students,” said King.
King says he understands this is a stressful time for families and the province is actively working with the community through the PEI Alliance For Mental Well-Being in order to identify accessible tools that families can tap into.
“These tools and resources will be shared on social media and on our website later today,” said King.
In addition to at-home learning, the other measures include:
personal gatherings limited to 10 people, a steady and consistent group of 10
wedding receptions and funeral receptions are not permitted
all organized gatherings, including worship services, must operate with a maximum of 50 people and physical-distancing between households
gyms, fitness facilities, and retail can continue to operate up to 50 per cent capacity, with physical-distancing and masks
visitation to long-term care and community care is limited to three partners in care, with physical-distancing
physical-distancing is required in all venues, up to a maximum of 50 per cent capacity in retail businesses and vax pass events, including theatres, gyms, etc.
restaurants and eating establishments must maintain six-feet of distance between tables, proof of vaccination, and masking at all times except for when eating or drinking
sport and recreation activities continue to be paused for Island children
HIGH SCHOOL EXAMS
With the decision to continue with remote learning until at least Jan. 24, Minister of Education and Lifelong Learning Natalie Jameson says high school examinations will not be held this term.
“Marks need to accurately reflect what the student knows and can do. Asking students to complete a high-stakes assessment remotely, when the majority of their instruction and assessment has been in-person, would be inappropriate and unfair to students,” said Jameson.
“We have decided that, for first semester, students’ final marks will be based on their class-based assessments, including those completed during remote learning.”
Jameson says the province has established a $125 weekly childcare allowance.
“These funds can be used to help pay for a private babysitter or go towards fees at a licensed childcare centre. The application… is a simple online form on our website, or if your school-age child is at a licensed centre we will automatically provide the funds to the centre to help pay for your child’s fees. No application is required,” said Jameson.
Jameson says there are currently around 300 families who are receiving the allowance.
“Our aim is to be as flexible as possible. Basically, if you need to hire a babysitter or pay for childcare because schools are closed, we will help pay for it,” said Jameson.
“If your family is struggling to find childcare, please reach out. We have staff who will work with you to identify services in or near your community. We have a registration form on our website or you can call our office directly.”
For families with children who have special needs, Jameson says they will further expand their respite program in both the English and French school systems.
“Many of the schools will move to a full-day respite program for these students,” said Jameson.
Morrison reported 209 new cases of COVID-19 Thursday, bringing the total number of active cases in the province to 1,964.
Over the last seven days, P.E.I. has had an average of 192 cases per day.
There are eight people in hospital with COVID-19, including one person in intensive care.
There is a new outbreak at the Atlantic Baptist long-term care facility in Charlottetown, where four residents and three staff have tested positive. Further testing is taking place on Thursday.
Thirteen residents and three staff at the Garden Home long-term care facility in Charlottetown have also tested positive for COVID-19.
At the Provincial Correctional Facility in Miltonvale Park, there are seven staff and three offenders who have COVID-19 and one additional offender, who is not linked to the outbreak, who is also positive.
Eleven early-learning childcare centres across P.E.I. have cases or clusters of cases. Four of these facilities are open, four are closed, and three are offering modified or limited services.
There is an outbreak in a population that regularly accesses shelters and outreach services in Charlottetown, with seven cases reported, including two new cases.
“In addition, there are numerous other outbreaks in workplaces across the province. Given the increase of new daily cases and the current active case count, the number of outbreaks is not a surprise,” said Morrison.
“We believe it will be another two weeks before we see the worst of this wave. While we are taking steps to decrease the slope of this curve and flatten the peak, we cannot predict how high the peak of this wave will be.”
Morrison says it is important that they continue to base decisions on the evolving epidemiology of the Omicron variant.
“We have benefited from taking a cautious and steady approach throughout this pandemic and now is not the time to change that course,” said Morrison.
As of Wednesday, Jan. 12, 95.9 per cent of Islanders over the age of 12 have received at least one dose of vaccine and 92.6 per cent were fully vaccinated. In children aged five to 11, 56.1 per cent have had one dose. Over 34,000 Islanders have had their third dose.
“Beginning next week, some five to 11 year olds will be eligible to receive their second dose, as it will be an eight-week interval from their first dose,” said Morrison.