Parents must weigh back-to-class risks, says Nunavut health minister

Baker Lake schools reduce capacity in respsone COVID-19 case increase

Health Minister John Main, seen here in a file photo, addressed parents’ concerns on Thursday, several days before students are scheduled to return to in-person classes. (File photo by Dustin Patar)

By Mélanie Ritchot

With Nunavut schools set to reopen in a matter of days, Health Minister John Main addressed some parents’ concerns on Thursday about sending their kids back to class as the Omicron variant of COVID-19 continues to spread.

Vaccination appointments have been limited at some community health centres due to staffing shortages. As a result, some kids could be going back to school without having had the chance to get vaccinated against COVID-19, even if their parents want them to get the shot.

“As it stands right now there is no vaccine mandate in place for schools, so all students in that situation are able to join in,” Main said.

When asked what parents should do if they’re worried about sending their kids back to class without appointments available to get the vaccine, Main said parents need to make that call themselves.

“At the end of the day, it’s up to each parent to make a judgment on whether they’re comfortable making the decision of sending their child to school.”

Main said he understands many factors can affect this decision, such as children having medical conditions that puts them more at risk of the virus, or if a child is living with someone considered vulnerable to the disease.

Dr. Michael Patterson encouraged parents to consider risks outside of schools, such as visiting between households, which could be the same or greater than the risk of sending a child to school.

“Anyone who’s concerned about individual risk, they should be also looking at other sources of exposure,” he said.

Main said vaccination appointments have been “spotty” in some communities due to staffing issues, but mass vaccine clinics will be rolled out across the territory in the coming weeks.

The first clinic will be at Inuksuk High School in Iqaluit on Jan. 22. It will be a walk-in clinic for youth from 12 to 17 years old who got their second dose at least six months ago.

Main did not specify whether clinics in other communities will also just provide booster doses or have first and second doses available as well.

Education Minister Pamela Gross addressed questions about how the department plans to make up for how much school time students have lost during the pandemic.

“I know [school staff] are working very hard to ensure the students are learning as much as possible,” Gross said.

Teachers are being encouraged to take the differences among their students’ home lives into account to help their learning as well, she said.

After confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Baker Lake quadrupled in the span of a week, schools there will only be reopening at half capacity, Nunavut’s chief public health officer Dr. Michael Patterson has decided.

“The goal is to keep the risk of exposure to the same level or less risk of exposure due to other activities,” he said.

Patterson made the announcement at a news conference on Thursday after 35 cases were confirmed in the community, just seven days after the tally was eight.

“There has been a significant increase in the number of infected individuals in Baker Lake,” he said.

Patterson will continue to assess the situation in each community weekly and lower school capacities for one to two weeks as needed, he said.

All schools in Nunavut are returning to 100 per cent or 50 per cent capacity on Monday.

Those returning at half capacity are Baker Lake, Cambridge Bay, Iqaluit, Kinngait, Arviat and Rankin Inlet.

In Iqaluit, a daycare has closed due to a COVID-19 exposure, Patterson also said.

Daycares just opened back up on Monday after a Nunavut-wide lockdown imposed in December.

Patterson said COVID-19 testing and contact tracing are ongoing at the Iqaluit daycare.

Share This Story

(19) Comments:

  1. Posted by Bamboozled by the GN on

    Irks me to think that the GN thought it was okay to reopen after seeing case numbers go trump style. Now we’re unsure of how much covid is actually spreading and were just opening up like that, already got babies and toddlers at risk of exposure too.

  2. Posted by Concerned Parent on

    Did GN give a reason why our youth are getting boosted when Health Canada only approved boosters for 18 years and up? If there’s approval for 12-17 year olds, I couldn’t locate it on their website. Some recent studies show that there is an increasing risk of myocarditis in young males (16-24) the more doses they get…this may mean that potential risks could outweigh the benefit after so many doses (and infections)…so just wondering what the justification is for giving it to younger age groups here in Nunavut and whether parents and youth are informed of this.

      • Posted by Fact check the fact check on

        If you read the link you provided you will see that it says the following: “A booster dose (50 mcg) of the Moderna Spikevax®COVID-19 vaccine may be administered in individuals 18 years of age and older at least six months after completing their primary vaccine series.” So, the original poster was not inaccurate based on your link. There may be more up to date information and people should check this info with the CPHO and doctors or nurses to whom they have access.

      • Posted by Fact Check Pt. 2 on

        I made a mistake. The comment above is addressing booster shots, not the vaccine. I stand corrected, there is no info that I can find either that says 12 to 17 year olds should be given the booster.

        I apologize.

        • Posted by Concerned Parent on

          Thank you for checking and acknowledging that there is no clear approval for a booster in children 12-17. If anyone finds anything, please share. Otherwise, this question should be asked to the GN.

      • Posted by MARS on

        The post you refer to by ‘Concerned Parent’ refers to booster shots, not the first 2 doses of the vaccine.

        The link you added to your post supports ‘Concerned Parents’ post and states:

        “A booster dose (50 mcg) of the Moderna Spikevax®COVID-19 vaccine may be administered in individuals 18 years of age and older at least six months after completing their primary vaccine series.”

  3. Posted by Parenr on

    Sounds like because omnicron has mild symptoms, we should now treat it like a common cold and that it will run its course.

    • Posted by Offensively Moderate on

      Largely agree. But if you are at risk of bad outcomes due to old age or health status you should be vaccinated and boosted.

      Also, if you aren’t vaccinated or haven’t had a previous infection, this virus is still “novel” to you, and you could be in for an unpleasant experience.

      • Posted by John K on

        Immunity from exposure is MUUCH less than from the vaccine.

  4. Posted by Crystal Clarity on

    I wonder if all staff in schools, preschools and daycares are required to be vaccinated? They will be spending a lot of time with children and it would make sense for the safety of the students as well as the staff. As a parent I want to be assured that the staff working with and around my children are vaccinated just like other front line workers nurses, doctors, airline employees etc

    • Posted by High school parent on

      Teachers and staff are as of yet not required to be fully vaccinated FYI. One of the only jurisdictions in Canada that has public service employees still employed that are not mandated to be fully vaccinated.

  5. Posted by Aputi on

    Ain’t sending my kid to school after catching covid over the holidays, rough stuff

    • Posted by Offensively Moderate on

      Did your kids also catch covid over the holidays? (and if your answer is ‘no’, how do you know?)

      If your kids had covid and they’ve cleared it there’s not much to worry about, they probably won’t get it again until there’s a new variant.

      • Posted by Aputi on

        My whole family was affected we all tested positive,

        • Posted by HealthCtre on

          Maybe speak to health centre nurse then for advice because maybe the risk of sickness is now limited for your kids and school has benefits to kids….

          • Posted by Aputi on

            Rather teach my kids to hunt,

  6. Posted by High school parent on

    My panik has suffered so much mental health distress over all of these lockdowns. She is conflicted over clearly being pushed through school and given inflated grades, we have had long discussions over why she passed when she was struggling with certain subjects. Her marks and grades do not reflect her actual knowledge of the subjects. Her grade 12 certificate will be utterly useless and she will be completely unprepared for after high school. She can barely write yet she has a 85 in English, tell me how that is healthy for our kids?

    She is mentally in anguish and seeing counselling for the affects this is having on her. EDSBY has been a complete waste of money from the GN. They should have had proper distance learning or resources so I can try and work with my kid. Giving them chapters scanned from textbooks and expecting them to teach themselves is NOT education.

  7. Posted by realistic drumstick on

    Are students and teachers going to get sick with omicron this week – absolutely. Some will be bringing it home to their loved ones too. However, parents tired of their kids at home will have a break, though their kids might bring home more than a little homework too!


Comments are closed.