Citizens’ group tracks contact tracing in Nova Scotia schools

Parent group takes the lead in Nova Scotia public school contact tracing efforts and releases its own COVID-19 exposure list, after the province and public health dropped the practice during the surge Omicron.

“Parents everywhere want to know,” said Stacey Rudderham, co-chair of the Nova Scotia Parents for Public Education group.

“They want to know what the exposures are and they want to know if their schools have exposures and at what level.”

Classes in Nova Scotia resumed in-person learning on Monday and already the Nova Scotia Parents for Public Education COVID-19 Council is reporting 59 potential exposures.

Rudderham says parents or guardians can record positive Rapid Antigen and PCR tests through its website and this is done anonymously without identifying the case and the infected person.

“The government basically told us we were on our own,” Rudderham said. “So we’re doing what we need to do on our own, to help each other and take the stress off or help people feel in the know.”

Nova Scotia’s Chief Medical Officer of Health says while parent groups have the right to conduct contact tracing themselves, he argues there is no benefit to schools in having this type of contact tracing. information.

“Relying on being told by the government or someone else about close contact, whether in schools or elsewhere, gives people a false sense of security,” the official said. Dr. Robert Strang, during Wednesday’s press briefing on COVID-19.

“We see many parent groups trying to do contact tracing on their own and while I appreciate people wanting to help and feel the information is important, there really isn’t any added benefit in school settings. to have this contact tracing,” Strang said.

Strang says COVID-19 is all around us and it’s possible to be exposed whenever we’re outdoors and around other people.

It’s one of the reasons the president of the Nova Scotia Teachers Union (NSTU) is calling on government and public health to reinstate contact tracing as another layer of protection, especially given this recent surge in cases. and increased hospitalizations.

“It’s not about us we’re worried about, it’s the vulnerable people we’re connected to,” said NSTU President Paul Wozney. “We don’t want to pass it on to them.”

According to Wozney, there are no clear protocols for how teachers should manage and communicate COVID-19 exposures because some teachers have been told by administrators not to communicate cases.

“It creates this kind of chaos where everyone makes up their own minds as they go,” Wozney said.

Both Strang and Premier Tim Houston said parents and teachers can report positive cases, adding there is no “gag” on teachers.

“To be very clear, no one is prohibited from telling anyone they have COVID,” Houston said. “If you have COVID, you can tell whoever you want you have COVID.”

Strang said previous contact tracing work was disruptive to the school system and families and would not mandate isolation for close contacts, but rather urge people to follow public health protocols closely and to limit contact outside of school and home.

Rudderham says news about COVID-19 cases is always important to families and they hear it from members of their 24,000-member Facebook group.

“Information is what mattered to people and to take it away you left parents feeling much more vulnerable than they had in previous waves,” Rudderham said.

Strang said the province’s supply of rapid antigen tests is being replenished and they will bring the “Test to Protect” program back to schools by offering students and staff two tests a week, regardless of symptoms.

Public Health estimates there are 5,374 active cases of COVID-19 in Nova Scotia as of Wednesday.

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