Removing the mask in class: a risky bet?

UThis is a “premature” decision, criticizes physicist Nancy Delagrave, coordinator of the COVID-STOP team.

As of Tuesday, elementary and high school students in the orange zones are no longer required to wear a mask in class due to the heatwave sweeping the province. However, a mask is still required in public areas and on school transport.

Without a mask, the likelihood of contracting the virus is very high. Thus, Quebec loses the “golden opportunity” to continue to reduce the number of cases “to the maximum”, according to Mme Delagrave.

“The government has the ability to minimize transmission as much as possible by continuing to take ongoing measures and vaccinations. Instead, however, he decided to hastily loosen the measures. ”

At a press conference with the prime minister and health minister on Tuesday, the national director of public health said that eliminating mask wearing in class at yellow and green levels was planned even before the warm weather. … “But in the current context, given that classes are about to end, it was decided to remove him, along with the epidemiology that we are seeing,” said D.R Horatio Arruda.

“We must do everything in our power to better protect the people of Quebec, which means air traffic control, which is considered the only important thing,” said Nancy Delagrave.

To do this, important measures such as wearing a suitable mask should not be relaxed until “community transmission is close to zero,” she said.

“When we take off the mask in class, we make two mistakes. We are not holding back [le virus] at the source and the owner is no longer protected. All the conditions for creating super-propagating phenomena have been met, ”explains the physicist, who points out that in Israel, the end of wearing a mask in the classroom was considered the source of the second wave.

Beware of air conditioning

The expert recalls that super-propagating phenomena also occur with poor ventilation.

“Air quality in schools has been discussed for several months now, and this issue deserves our attention,” she adds. “Why is there still so much resistance to believing that the virus is transmitted by air and not by airborne droplets?”

The virus spreads more easily indoors than outdoors, especially if you are there for a long time. And without a mask. Moreover, if the windows are closed and the fans “circulate” the same air in the classroom.

“When the windows are closed to keep cool, or the curtains are lowered, there is less outside air in, which means more transmission. In schools with air conditioning, we restrict the supply of outside air, which is clean and dilutes the virus. ”

Option “understated”

Experts agree that before considering ending the wearing of masks in class, the authorities should support the suspension of classroom activities in the past few days. “We’re closing schools because of snowstorms, why not because of the heat wave?” jokes Dr. André Veylet, an immunologist at the Montreal Institute for Clinical Research.

Because ventilation and wearing a mask are even more important in contexts where variations are common to continue “changing the curve,” says Nancy Delagrave. Like her, DR Weylett believes that the presence of a delta (Indian) variant remains “underestimated” in Quebec.

“We do not know its scale. This option is again taking over in the United Kingdom and the United States and gaining traction in Canada. Why will things be different in Quebec? The doctor asks.

“We have fewer cases, so why play with fire?” he is asking.

According to the National Institute of Public Health of Quebec, the Indian strain can be transmitted “on par or better” with the British version and even show partial resistance to certain vaccines.

“As far as I know, vaccines work with the Delta virus. [variant indien]… So if a person has received two doses, well, some safety still exists, ”Prime Minister François Lego told a press conference on Tuesday.

But at the school “very few young people were vaccinated, and among those who were vaccinated, this was not enough for it to become effective,” says Nancy Delagrave, who believes that the last weeks at school will be enough to get vaccinated. flash. She predicts that they will continue after the children meet in the summer, because the “follow-up” will become difficult.

“We have not yet reached the stage where we could soften measures such as wearing a mask in class. There was only a small effort that had to be made by the end of the school year, ”the physicist complains.

“Now, under what conditions are we going to reopen schools in the fall?”

Not unanimous among teachers

Removing the mandatory mask in the classroom is also controversial on the part of teachers, who still have not received a second dose of COVID-19 vaccine. With overcrowded and poorly ventilated classrooms, “the government is making a very risky bet,” said the Autonomous Federation of Education (FAE).

The FAE considers the decision to no longer require a mask in classroom to no longer be required, given recent public health warnings not to reduce our vigilance against the virus and its more transmitted variants that are circulating.

“Teachers still have not received a second dose of vaccine, and daily exposure to multiple family blisters may affect their health and safety. The precautionary principle must continue to prevail, we must remember that there are always vulnerable people in society and that wearing a mask remains the best barrier gesture in the class, ”says FAE President Sylvain Mallette in a press release published Tuesday.

If he understands that students may feel discomfort from wearing a mask, FAE does not believe that removing this measure in any way could “contribute to learning with unbearable heat in classrooms.”

The government appears to be making decisions “at the corner of the table,” she said, but no later than last week it said the rules for wearing masks would not change until a certain target was reached. Vaccination rate (two doses) 75% of the population aged 12 and over.

“Suddenly, with a heatwave coming, which is not a surprise and not the first time in a pandemic, could high fever prevail over health and safety? Four hours to change science in Quebec, right? Asks Sylvain Mallette that public health must “resist popular pressure.”

Some students are holding a mask, others are not.

Canceling the measure or not, heat or not, high school students in Quebec on Tuesday decided not to take off their masks in class, according to testimonies posted on social media.

“Out of 21 students, 19 chose not to take off their masks this morning,” a teacher from Rosemere tweeted Tuesday. “In my 1eh Group [secondaire 1], out of 24, a maximum of 4 people removed it, ”replied another teacher from Montreal. The same is with the second deputy 1, who reported on the same social network that 15 of the 36 students kept the mask in the class on Tuesday morning.

An elementary school teacher in Val de Istochnica said that three out of 21 students kept the mask … to eventually take it off after two lessons.

Snap measurements when wearing a mask

When asked about the discrepancy between the new measures regarding the wearing of a mask – mandatory for the population in shopping centers, but not at workplaces in the yellow and green zones, in particular for school personnel, – D.R Horatio Arruda told a news conference on Tuesday that “work” is underway “to revise these elements of yellow, green and these mask issues, which will be mandatory, not mandatory, to ensure consistency.”

“Because, as you know, we work with CNESST in particular, but CNESST cares about the workers. After that, customers come […]… And in the next few days, we will return to the simplistic issue of wearing a mask, ”promised the national director of public health.

“The more we go for the second dose, the more we will have significant vaccination coverage, the more we can mitigate such measures, especially when the epidemic is on the wane. If we start seeing cases again, we will reintroduce them, ”added D.R Arruda, who said he was “satisfied” with CNESST’s decision to no longer require teachers to wear masks in the yellow-green zone.

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