The Yukon’s Communicable Disease Control (YCDC) unit will no longer issue COVID-19 exposure notices for schools.
The Department of Education informed families of the change in an evening email on Jan. 12. The email focused on the availablity of rapid tests and school operations.
“With the introduction of rapid antigen tests as well as the current number of active COVID-19 cases currently in Yukon, YCDC will be making changes to how they conduct their case follow-up activities,” it’s stated. “In the context of schools this means a shift to school-based surveillance and away from individual case and contact management. In the coming days, YCDC will decrease the amount of case and contact management work that is done for the schools and will no longer be issuing school exposure notifications.”
The email also outlines that after a positive test, students should isolate at home according to the directions on the test instructions, and makes it clear that families aren’t required to report it to YCDC. Nor are they required to notify their school of the results.
“To protect personal privacy, schools also cannot release individual contact information for the purpose of an individual (staff, student or parent/guardian) seeking to notify others of their test result,” it was noted.
“If you are contacting your school to notify them of your absence and that you require support with remote learning, you can let the school know that your absence is due to illness and if you choose you may indicate it is due to a positive COVID-19 test.”
As the number of COVID-19 cases in the territory continues to rise — at 473 confirmed cases (this does not account for individuals who have used a rapid test to confirm they are positive) as of Jan. 13 — schools are facing operational issues with a number moving to remote learning.
Among those currently closed to in-person classes are Elijah Smith Elementary, Golden Horn Elementary, secondary school students at J.V. Clark School, Jack Hulland Elementary and Ross River School.
Students in a Grade 1/2 class at Selkirk Elementary School have also moved to remote, though the rest of the school is open to in-person classes. According to the Yukon government website, most students at those schools will return to in-person classes on Jan. 18. Golden Horn and the Grade 1/2 class at Selkirk are the exceptions, with in-person classes expected to resume Jan. 19. A residence closure is also listed for the Gadzoosdaa Student Residence with the reopening scheduled for Jan. 21.
It’s a situation that is creating anxiety for a number of families, said Angela Drainville in a Jan. 13 interview.
Drainville is the administrator of a Facebook group focused on high schools in the territory.
“It’s a struggle,” she said, noting that parents with younger children are forced to take time off when schools go remote, and some parents don’t have that option.
For other parents that have not gone to remote learning, there may be anxiety about when or if they might get that email telling them their school is moving to remote learning. Not knowing when it might happen makes it difficult for many to plan for the possibility.
Drainville said based on what she’s seen on social media, parents are divided about whether students should be learning remotely or in-class.
“It’s truly a mix,” she said, also noting that she had expected to see more reaction to the Jan. 12 email from the Department of Education, announcing that exposure notices at schools would no longer be issued.
She pointed out the announcement is fairly new and many may be dealing with exhaustion — or as she called it COVID-austion — to so many changes around COVID-19 regulations and recommendations. Others may be isolating at home already with COVID-19, as she is with her family.
She noted for those with pre-existing helath conditions, it will likely be scary not knowing if there has been an exposure at school.
On the other hand, if there was a constant list of exposure notices, it would become difficult to draw attention to an outbreak of concern, and in that case Drainville said she can understand the rationale.
She is pleased rapid tests are more readily available to the general public, and expects that will make a big difference in helping to keep schools safe. She’s also pleased the territory has outlined the process for schools to move to remote learning.
Drainville also hopes to see N95 masks available to school staff. As she pointed out, school staff have “been on the front line of every illness” and should have proper protective equipment.
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