WINNIPEG - A Winnipeg education authority says it’s gearing up for a dragged-out third wave of COVID-19, as more contagious variants continue being identified, with the purchase of tens of thousands of respirator masks for staff use.
The Seven Oaks School Division says it has purchased 75,000 N95 face masks, which they hope will allow them to give one fresh mask to each of their 1,500 school staff members, with supply lasting until the end of the school year.
Officials note the masks give an increased level of protection, forming a seal around the nose and mouth to block microscopic airborne particles. Health Canada says N95 masks have a 95 per cent success rate at protecting against respiratory virus exposure, while surgical masks don’t provide the same level of filtration because of their looser fit.
Data from the province shows there are more than 250 active COVID-19 variants of concern cases as of Saturday, more than 30 of which have been found in schools. Officials say contact tracing suggests most students are contracting the virus outside of school grounds.
While Seven Oaks Superintendent Brian O’Leary says while staff have done a great job at keeping students safe, the division wants to provide an extra tool to make sure schools can continue to operate safely. O’Leary says with 30 weeks of the school year already passed, he’s focusing on getting through the remaining 10 weeks in the safest possible way.
Meanwhile the province says it invested $12 million toward a PPE fund for schools, with staff being provided face shields, gloves, medical masks, and other protective supplies throughout the pandemic.