Manitoba Education Minister Explains Province’s Decision to Change Contact Tracing in Schools

Manitoba’s Minister of Education said the province is changing its approach to close contact notification in schools due to the nature of the Omicron variant.

“The reality is that we are dealing with a different animal with this variant of Omicron. It is changing rapidly and it really does not lend itself to contact tracing as we know it,” the education minister said on Friday. , Cliff Cullen, during an interview.

Cullen’s comments come a day after the province announced that schools would no longer provide close contact notification or individual case letters to schools.

The minister said that instead of looking for individual contacts, Manitoba is taking a broader approach.

“It’s more school-by-school,” he said, noting that the province will still have the dashboard displaying the number of confirmed cases in schools.

The Manitoba NDP slammed the government’s decision, saying Thursday’s announcement lacked detail and that the decision now requires parents to ensure their child does not have COVID-19.

“Safety is always important in schools, and in order to maintain a safe school environment, we need to inform parents,” education spokesman Nello Altamare said Thursday.

Cullen said public health will continue to work closely with schools and monitor cases, as well as absenteeism.

He said if the province notices a spike in cases at a certain school, it will make targeted changes to that particular school, including setting an alert.

“Then we could take other steps for that school and that might include additional rapid testing and a targeted approach for those schools,” Cullen said.

“Or it may be in extreme situations, it may mean going back to remote learning for that particular school or a cohort of that school.”


With students returning to in-person learning on Monday, Cullen said schools are working to bring students back safely.

“Cleaning preparations are continuing, ensuring we have physical distancing, making sure we have masks available,” he said.

“We will reinstate our vaccination programs, making sure we have the rapid test kits available for the situations.”

When asked why the province didn’t address air filtration in classrooms sooner, Cullen replied, “Ventilation is a tool in the toolbox.

“I don’t think we can lose sight of all the other precautions people should be taking,” he said, noting that personal hygiene, wearing masks, physical distancing and reducing contact should continue to be a priority.

Cullen said the province has been working with school divisions for more than a year on ventilation, adding that Manitoba has also increased funding for ventilation.

For students who are still afraid to return to class, the minister said that we must learn to live with the virus.

“Students learn best when they are in school,” he said.

“I would suggest that students or parents who are worried about returning to class consult with their teachers just to make sure they understand any precautions individual schools are taking to keep our students safe.”

– With files from CTV’s Nicole Dube.

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