WINNIPEG — Two more Manitoba school divisions will move to online learning as officials report that community COVID-19 transmission is occurring at events and gatherings outside the classroom.
Education Minister Cliff Cullen and Dr. Jazz Atwal, the province's deputy chief public health officer, told reporters Saturday that the Garden Valley and Red River Valley School Divisions will move to remote learning effective Tuesday and continuing until May 30.
It follows a decision last weekend to move schools in Winnipeg and Brandon to remote learning until the end of the month.
Atwal insists being at school is safe -- it's what's happening outside of school that's a problem.
"It was everything else that encompassed schools, you know, the act of going to school or the ease of connectivity or interactions between students coming to school or on the way home, and getting together, was driving community transmission," Atwal told a dial-in news conference.
The Red River School Division covers an area south and west of Winnipeg and has 2,300 students. Garden Valley, meanwhile, covers south and central Manitoba.
The addition of those divisions means 373 schools in Manitoba have been moved to remote learning, out of a total of 820 schools in the province.
"As we near the last few weeks of this school year, let us all continue to be vigilant in following public health guidelines, resist letting our guard down and ensure that we can finish the year in the safest way possible," Cullen said.
Atwal said Friday that modelling predicts the daily number of new cases and the demand for intensive care beds could soon exceed anything recorded to date during the pandemic.
Younger COVID-19 patients will have a longer length of stay in hospital than older patients, he said, which could increase the risk of hospital resources becoming overwhelmed.
The government lowered the minimum age for vaccines to 12 from 18 on Friday.
Janice Krahn, interim superintendent of the Garden Valley School Division, said in a statement posted on the division's website that it was a "proactive" shift to online learning, and she acknowledged it would cause additional stress.
"Your continued support is greatly appreciated as we navigate together the changes brought about by this pandemic," Krahn said.
Manitoba reported four new deaths of people with COVID-19 and 430 additional cases on Saturday.
The daily pandemic update from the province said the five-day test-positivity rate is 12 per cent provincially and 14.2 per cent in Winnipeg.
There are 241 people with COVID-19 in Manitoba's hospitals, with 70 in intensive care.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published May 15, 2021.
The Canadian Press