Experts ask to wear a mask in class again

As mask wearing in class is making a comeback in some schools, experts are calling for its return to counter the surge of the sixth wave of COVID-19, which is already underway.

Since the return of spring break, at the beginning of March, the mask is no longer mandatory at all times, only when traveling to school.

In recent days, however, several school directors have sent messages to parents recommending that their child wear the mask in class again, indicates the Federation of Directors of Educational Establishments of Quebec (FQDE).

“There are places where it hits faster than others,” says its president, Nicolas Prévost.

Some schools even make it mandatory, as can be read in a message sent to parents of students at Lucille-Teasdale International Secondary School in Brossard. The Center de services scolaire Marie-Victorin indicates that the measure will be in force for approximately 10 days.

However, according to the instructions from the Ministry of Education sent to the FQDE, schools can recommend the use of a mask in class, but not impose it, indicates Mr. Prévost.

A general return?

Given the uptick in cases observed in recent days, experts advocate a general return of covered faces on school benches.

“If we want to minimize the risk of contamination, yes, we must bring the masks back to class. Children are not the ones most at risk of developing severe symptoms, but they can be vectors of transmission in their families and in more vulnerable people”, says Roxane Borgès da Silva, professor at the School of Public Health at the University of Montreal.

Alain Lamarre, an immunology specialist at the INRS, also believes that this pathway should be considered. “If we have indications that there is a lot of contamination in schools, I think it would be an easy measure to reintroduce. […] and that it could have a significant impact,” he says.

Since the return to school in January, the rate of student and staff absence related to COVID-19 is the only indicator that gives an idea of ​​the presence of the virus in the school network.

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According to the most recent data, dating from March 24, the absenteeism rate is 1.2%, while at the end of January it reached almost 5%.

For this reason, Benoit Barbeau, professor of virology at UQAM, believes that it is still early to consider a general return to the use of a mask in class.

“I don’t think it’s necessary right now,” he says, especially in properly ventilated classrooms.

According to the data collected by the C02 readers, which are already installed in three out of four classrooms, the air quality is satisfactory in 97% of the premises, where the weekly average is below 1500 ppm (parts per million ).

The Journal also spoke Thursday with regional public health directors for the North Shore, Bas-St-Laurent and Gaspésie, where the number of active cases is particularly high.

Although they are concerned about the situation in their region, they do not go so far as to demand that they wear a mask in class again, a decision that corresponds to Quebec, they specify.

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