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Public Health supports maskless return to school as restrictions lift

Starting March 21, people can make their own decisions about wearing face coverings as masks will no longer be required in public places such as  restaurants and bars, gyms and movie theatres and schools. Face coverings are still required on public transit and health care settings at least until April 27.

Hastings Prince Edward Public Health (HPEPH) has released a statement regarding the return to learning March 21, when many COVID-19 public health measures will be lifted across the province, including in schools and with child care.

As of March 21, masks will no longer be universally required for students and staff in child care/schools, or on student transportation.

There will still be instances where individuals are required to wear masks during the school day including:
– upon return from international travel,
– when exposed to a case of COVID-19 in the community or their household (wear a mask and avoid activities where mask removal is necessary such as dining out, high contact sports),
– when taking public transportation (e.g., a city bus) to and from school, and
– when attending school-based immunization clinics.

There will also be instances where staff, children and students may choose to wear masks related to personal health reasons, or preference.

HPEPH encourages parents and caregivers to speak with their children about the importance of kindness, respect, and tolerance for others – regardless of their choice to wear a mask or not.

Cohorts are no longer required in the child care/school setting and children/youth will be encouraged to interact with one another, including removal of cohorting/zoning at recess, reconfiguring learning spaces to allow students to sit in groupings and/or circles, and encouraging conversation and collaboration, both during class and lunch periods.

HPEPH states COVID-19 indicators in the community remain stable.

“Even though transmission continues in the community, we are seeing a significant decrease in the severity of COVID-19 cases at the population level. We are now in a different place in the pandemic, thanks to high rates of COVID-19 immunization in the region. We have high levels of vaccination in students aged 12 to 17 years, along with increased uptake of third dose boosters, and rising levels of vaccination in students aged 5 to 11 years of age. Over the past two years, younger age groups have continued to be at lower risk for severe disease and clinical symptoms of COVID-19. “

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