3 more New Brunswick schools confirm cases of COVID-19
Dominic Cardy says he's prepared to switch system to online learning at a moment's notice
Three more schools in New Brunswick have confirmed positive cases of COVID-19, bringing the total to five since last week, and 10 since the school year began.
Education Minister Dominic Cardy said administrators at Montgomery Street School in Fredericton and Centreville Community School, north of Hartland, issued notices to parents over the weekend.
The two schools are now working with New Brunswick Public Health to identify students and school personnel who might have been exposed to the virus.
On Monday, Anglophone School District South confirmed in an email to parents one positive COVID-19 case at Rothesay High School.
Over the weekend, one case of COVID-19 was confirmed at Simonds High School in Saint John and another at Hampton Middle School. Harbour View High School in Saint John confirmed a possible exposure to the illness.
Students in Grade 7 at Hampton Middle School will start virtual learning this week
But public schools won't close as they did this past spring, when COVID-19 first made an appearance in New Brunswick, Cardy told Information Morning Fredericton. Early in the pandemic, not as much was known about the coronavirus, but things are different now and such a broad shutdown of schools isn't considered necessary.
"The goal could never be to have everything completely shut down indefinitely," Cardy said.
"It was always to be as safe as possible and operating as close to normally as possible."
Cardy said there is a single COVID-19 contact at Montgomery Street School, and everyone in the school has been notified. Letters to parents have also been sent out.
"That person is being isolated. We don't believe there's a further risk at this time."
Cardy said he is trying to be as transparent as possible. And if parents haven't received any emails from their child's school or district, that's a good sign.
"When you hear from Public Health ... don't panic. Just listen to what they have to say. And follow the steps."
Cardy made it clear that schools will move to online learning right away if there are any risks to students or if the number of cases increases.
He said his department has been working in conjunction with Public Health, which is " constantly looking at the data" related to COVID-19.
"We'll be ready to move on a moment's notice if they give us the word that we have to make a shift."
In July, Cardy announced all high school students in New Brunswick would have to use their own electronic devices. A $7 million subsidy program to help low- and middle-income families buy computers was launched July 31.
But Cardy also said there could be challenges with the new online system.
"Anything brand new … I'm sure there will be issues with it."
COVID-19 in schools
Cardy said he will continue working with districts and the New Brunswick Teachers' Union and representatives of other workers in the school system.
"Making sure those communication lines are working as smoothly as possible," he said.
"You've got a lot of moving pieces here."
More cases of COVID-19
New Brunswick officials announced six new cases of COVID-19 in the province Sunday.
The new cases bring the total of active infections in the province to 77. One person is in hospital related to the virus.
That announcement follows a significant rise in the Moncton and Saint John regions, including a single-day high for the province on Saturday when 23 cases were reported.
The Moncton and Saint John regions returned to tighter restrictions under the orange phase last week.
"We are not through COVID yet," he said.