Physical-distancing rule in Alberta classrooms removed in weekend order signed by Hinshaw

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The weekend order does not change the province’s mask mandate, which requires all students in Grades 4 to 12 to wear masks in shared and common areas including hallways and school buses as well as classrooms when teachers and students are working closely together. Staff are required to wear masks in all settings where physical distancing cannot be maintained.

There are exceptions to the rule, for example if a student is unable to wear a mask due to physical or mental limitations, or if they are separated by a physical barrier.

When the mask mandate was announced in early August, Hinshaw said masks are optional if teachers are at the front of the classroom and students are sitting quietly at their desks, not facing each other and are “as far apart as possible” even if that is slightly less than the two-metre separation.

Trisha Estabrooks, board chairwoman at Edmonton Public Schools, said following the August announcement the district would go beyond the province’s rules by requiring students in grades 4-12 to wear masks whenever they are in a classroom because students are not able to physically distance.

The NDP has also called on the government to make public Hinshaw’s advice to the government public amid concerns the government’s policy and back-to-school plan appeared to contradict it.

Answering questions at a legislative committee hearing looking at the Public Health Act Thursday, Hinshaw clarified that her role as chief public health officer is not to be a decision-maker but to be an adviser who makes recommendations to the health minister.

“The decision-makers take the chief medical officer of health’s advice as one part of the considerations in the very difficult decisions that they need to make and I have always felt that the advice that I have provided has been met with respect and has been considered,” said Hinshaw.

Hinshaw is expected to speak at a 3:30 availability today.

More to come…

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