STF calls for tighter measures in schools as fourth wave continues in Sask.

An empty classroom is shown in this file image. (The Canadian Press)

The Saskatchewan Teachers’ Federation [STF] is calling for the province to take more action to address COVID-19 transmission in schools.

STF president Patrick Maze said Wednesday the organization is aware of cases where those exposed to COVID-19 in a classroom were not aware of the exposure until near the end of their isolation period.

“Unfortunately when people are finding out 10 or 15 days after they’ve been exposed that they need to isolate but there’s only a day or two left or no time left in the requirement, that just allows COVID to spread further in our schools,” Maze said.

Other issues include breakthrough cases in vaccinated staff and difficulties in finding substitute teachers.

The STF also called for the return of the Education Sector Response Planning Team that helped determine COVID-19 measures in schools,saying the direct line of communication it provided between the team, government and health officials was critical for pandemic planning last year.

"We need to make a decision. Do we want to end COVID or do we want to keep schools open at all costs?" Maze said.

During a provincial update Wednesday morning, chief medical health officer Dr. Saqib Shahab said some increase in transmission within school settings was “expected” given that children 11 and under continue to be the largest demographic of unvaccinated people.

According to Shahab, 23 per cent of cases under 11 are connected to school settings, but many continue to come from the household, especially when others in the home are also unvaccinated.

“We aren’t seeing large outbreaks, we’re seeing clusters of two or three cases in class,” Shahab said. “We’re watching that closely.”

Shahab also reaffirmed schools reflect the level of community transmission.

"Compared to last year less schools are going online, there’s less disruption, children are able to do a lot of activities in school including sports," Shahab said.

“The information that has been shared with me is that schools are still relatively safe when it comes to the transmission of COVID-19,” Education Minister Dustin Duncan said. “We certainly are still trying to encourage as many people, including students who are eligible, to get vaccinated.”

Health Canada is currently reviewing approval of the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine for children under 12.

Most teenagers have been eligible since May, and have embraced the shot for the most part.

"The youth are putting our young adults to shame by having a higher vaccination rate. I’ve always said we should learn from our seniors, but we should also learn from our 12-17 year olds on how to get vaccinated," Shahab said.