A school division in Winnipeg is working with an external vendor after the Province of Manitoba sent them less protective medical facemasks for their students, raising concerns in their community.
On Tuesday, Louis Riel School Division (LRSD) announced it is no longer getting pediatric facemasks directly from the province after being sent ones that have a lower level of protection than what has previously been sent.
"Since the beginning of the school year, the Louis Riel School Division (LRSD) has been encouraging the use of ASTM Level 3 rated medical-grade masks for staff and students. This is above and beyond current provincial guidance," LRSD says in a statement.
The province says in an email statement that "Public Health has never recommended a specific level of mask for use in schools. Levels one, two and three are appropriate medical masks for use in schools."
LRSD says they assured parents in the fall that students and staff would be given ASTM Level 3 masks after learning about provincial supply. ASTM Level 3 adult-sized mask supply remains consistent but that is not the case for pediatric sizes.
"Public health measures for schools require that all students and staff wear a non-medical mask. Public health recommends the use of medical masks for schools in specific high-risk situations only such as if a child develops symptoms while at school," a spokesperson from the province says in an email.
The school division says they were recently sent ASTM Level 1 pediatric masks from the province, which are to be used when there is a low risk of fluid exposure instead of the expected Level 3s for high risk. The Level 1 masks raised concerns in their community.
"In order to continue ensuring a supply of masks of that standard, we decided to use an external vendor for pediatric masks," LRSD says.
The province will foot the bill for the masks under the Safe Schools Fund. They will continue to supply masks for students and staff from various approved vendors.
Between November 15-28 there were 292 COVID-19 cases in students across Manitoba, and 1,301 student cases since September.
There have been 19 COVID-19 cases present in LRSD schools between November 15 to 28.