Dropped mask mandate leaves P.E.I. daycares in need of newer guidelines

·2 min read
P.E.I. daycares await newer COVID-19 guidelines to follow after the province dropped its mask mandate last week. (Marina von Stackelberg/CBC - image credit)
P.E.I. daycares await newer COVID-19 guidelines to follow after the province dropped its mask mandate last week. (Marina von Stackelberg/CBC - image credit)

Some Island child-care centres are keen for updated COVID-19 guidance after last week's announced changes to P.E.I.'s mandatory mask policy.

The guidelines — designed by the Department of Education to ensure the safety of staff and children — were last updated Nov. 30.

"It was quite a long time ago," said Katera Arsenault, director of Le Jardin des Étoiles an early childhood education centre in Summerside.

"And there have been so many public health changes since then that we've seen numbers in restaurants go up, numbers go up for gatherings at home. So I'd like to see something more specific to early year centres where we can start going a little more normal."

Mask requirements for parents

Arsenault said she heard from families soon after the announcement, confused on whether to continue wearing masks when picking up or dropping off kids.

Staff were also unsure of whether to continue enforcing mask use inside the daycare, she said.

"Is that going to cause more stress to the staff members?" said Arsenault.

"Having to say to parents, 'Oh, sorry, we still want you to wear your mask,' and then it brings us into the whole, 'Well I'm vaccinated or it's not mandatory, so I don't feel the need to wear it.'"

Jessica Doria-Brown/CBC News
Jessica Doria-Brown/CBC News

She said at her centre, they're asking families to continue wearing masks and so far, most people are.

"I'd say 98 per cent of our families are still wearing their masks. There are a few that aren't wearing them when they come in."

She said it's important to continue measures to keep everyone safe, especially young children who aren't able to get a vaccine, especially with the Island set to open to visitors from across Canada soon.

"There'll be more people and our parents will be in contact with more people. We can't control who people are seeing," said Arsenault, adding many Islanders haven't had their second dose.

"We're just taking the advice as we're given it and we're following our protocols the best we can and following our guidelines as we were following all along, disinfecting and making sure they [children] wash their hands and stay home if you're sick."

Updated guidelines coming soon

Jennifer Nangreaves, executive director at the P.E.I. Early Childhood Development Association, said newer guidelines are coming soon.

"We heard today that the Department of Education and Lifelong Learning has been communicating with the CPHO, and they're currently working on an updated guidance for child-care centres. We hope to have those in the next coming days and likely would include some discussion on masks of course, and perhaps some other updates."

Nangreaves said everything from breaking into cohorts, to staggered pick-up and drop-off times, to mask policies could all be reconsidered in an updated version from CPHO.

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