P.E.I. school children will not have to wear masks to start the year, but the province will be watching pandemic conditions closely, says Chief Public Health Officer Dr. Heather Morrison.
The Public Schools Branch announced the back-to-school plan last week. Morrison said the advice she provided for formulating that plan took into account the impact of pandemic measures on education and mental health.
"Trying to get back to a school year that's as normal as possible, after two-and-a-half years, is really important for that learning environment, as well as the relationships in school and the mental health of all the people that are in the school," she said.
Masks are one of a number of possible layers of protection, she said, stressing that vaccination is a crucial one. P.E.I. is doing relatively well at getting children vaccinated, she said, with 54 per cent of those aged five to 11 having two doses, as compared to 42 per cent nationally.
Booster doses have recently been approved for that age group, and Morrison urged parents to get those appointments made.
A fall wave of COVID-19 is expected, and the province will be watching a number of factors to assess the threat, including infection rates in the school-age and in the general population, positivity rates at testing sites, reports of respiratory infections, hospitalizations and emerging variants.
"If we need to adjust, we adjust quickly," Morrison said.
There is also a concern about an early flu season, which has been observed in the southern hemisphere, she said.
The biggest concern is the impact on the health-care system, and its ability to look after Islanders, she said.