Schools in central Newfoundland will reopen to in-class instruction on Thursday, after being closed for two days due to the increase in a cluster of COVID-19 cases that have gripped part of the region for the last week.
In a media release issued late Wednesday afternoon, the Newfoundland and Labrador English School District said it's following the reassurance of Regional Medical Officer of Health Dr. Monika Dutt that there is no need to alter school operations due to the cluster and keep schools closed for additional days.
As of Wednesday there are 46 COVID-19 cases connected to the central Newfoundland cluster with two presumptive cases and one probable case. It was also confirmed on Wednesday that a variant virus first identified in India is behind the central Newfoundland outbreak.
The NLESD made the decision to keep schools closed for Tuesday and Wednesday as COVID-19 testing efforts increased throughout central Newfoundland and Dr. Janice Fitzgerald moved a large portion of the area to Alert Level 4. The decision for the closure was not guided by public health.
In the release, NLESD CEO Tony Stack said the decision to suspend in-class instruction for two days was a proactive measure designed to "monitor and prepare for any unforeseen operational issues which might occur."
"As always, the focus for public health and school district officials has been to allow maximum in-class instruction for all students during the COVID-19 pandemic through enhanced health and safety measures implemented within the community and at the school level," said Stack.
The Newfoundland and Labrador Teachers' Association didn't take the closure lightly, saying teachers were still expected to show up for work although schools were closed to students, and that teachers should have been encouraged to work from home for their safety as well.
Thirty-six schools were affected by the closure. NLTA president Dean Ingram said roughly 500 teachers were impacted.
In total, Newfoundland and Labrador has 93 active cases of COVID-19.