NSTU wants COVID-19 testing in schools, province says it's exploring how to make that work

As students prepare to return to school Thursday in the Halifax and Cape Breton regions, their teachers are asking for COVID-19 testing.

They're worried that summer-like temperatures will result in less mask wearing.

The hot June temperatures are usually a welcome reprieve from the cold and rainy May weather, however,  as students are set to return to the classroom,  concern over adherence to mask protocols in the heat has the Nova Scotia Teachers Union (NSTU) pushing for COVID-19 testing in schools.

"On days, especially like today, when it’s hot out, it’s going to be hard to sit with their masks on all day end it just makes sense," says NSTU president Paul Wozney.

Wozney says there is precedent for such a move.

"We know it’s been used in other parts of the country to make sure that kids who are positive don’t actually bring COVID to school, it seems wise," he said.

Dr. Robert Strang, Nova Scotia's chief medical officer of health, says he's been working with the Department of Education on operational issues and that could eventually include testing at schools in some parts of the province.

"Right now, the focus is in the Halifax area which has had the greatest level of virus activity," Strang said.

Two weeks ago, the province announced schools would be closed for the remainder of the academic year; two days ago, they changed their minds.

"We’ve been preparing for this for sometime in the event that we had to go to at-home learning and then reopen," said Nova Scotia Education Minister Derek Mombourquette.

Nova Scotia Premier Iain Rankin expects all students to be in class Thursday morning and that mask-wearing in the heat, shouldn't be an issue.

"The department of education has worked really hard to have the right protocols in place, the right safety measures, the personal protective equipment is there," Rankin said. "Masks can be worn without any challenges to weather."

Rankin did say if there are extenuating circumstances preventing a student attending class, each school is capable of dealing with those situations one-on-one.