Accelerated screening for COVID-19 in the school system
-Quebec teachers’ union files suit in Superior Court
The Fédération autonome de l'enseignement (FAE), a Quebec teachers’ union, carried out its threat on September 14 by filing an action in the Superior Court to obtain from the Quebec government all the documents that allowed it to establish the Back to School Plan 2020-2021. FAE is relying on the expertise of Dr. Nimâ Machouf, a researcher and epidemiologist, who is challenging some of the measures put in place by the government as part of the back-to-school program, to obtain essential data and the implementation of an accelerated screening mechanism for the school system. In her report, Dr. Machouf believes, among other things, that the distance between students in the classroom is a measure to be maintained to limit the spread of the virus, while all students are grouped together in "bubble classes" and no distance is applied between them. She also suggests the wearing of face masks in the classroom, since "the risk of transmission is much higher during prolonged contact in a closed environment, therefore in the classroom," whereas the Quebec government does not currently require students to wear masks.
Given the potential for airborne transmission of COVID-19, Dr. Machouf also points to a pandemic issue that is not included in the Plan, namely the issue of adequate ventilation in classrooms. Only 46% of school buildings are known to be in satisfactory condition, according to the Ministry of Education. The practice of sports is also being singled out as it is said to promote contamination and increase the risk of transmission of the virus.
"In order to ensure the safety of our members and the young and adult students in their care, but also in order to advocate for optimal health measures in the future, FAE must be able to read all the documents that enabled the Quebec government to establish the Back to School Plan 2020-2021 (...) and to do so quickly," said FAE President Sylvain Mallette.
--Accelerated screening mechanism and access to complete data
FAE has also been demanding for weeks that the government provide complete data indicating, by category of affected individuals, the number of cases of COVID-19 in Quebec schools and that the government implement an accelerated screening mechanism for COVID-19 in the school system. Despite a commitment made by the Minister of Health and Social Services, Christian Dubé, on August 10 to implement such a mechanism, repeated requests and a formal notice sent, FAE has still not obtained proof that such a mechanism exists and information on its operation, if any.
The pandemic currently raging in Quebec is far from being under control, as indicated by the steady increase in cases over the past several days and the fact that cases of infection have been reported in at least 246 schools in less than three weeks. Quebec has just passed a critical threshold that suggests the arrival of a second wave of the pandemic. It is therefore becoming urgent for FAE to curb as much as possible the spread of the virus and its domino effect in schools.
FAE is a group of nine unions representing nearly 49,000 teachers in Quebec.
[Local Journalism Initiative]