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Sisters sew face masks for classmates to keep COVID-19 at bay

Last Updated Sep 5, 2020 at 7:05 pm EST

MONTREAL (CITYNEWS) – Back-to-school has been a little different this year for kids across the country. For Odessa and Thea Schulz, it meant hitting the sewing machine.

The sisters have been making face masks for their family, friends and classmates to ensure everyone stays safe as schools reopened this week.

“At first, I knew school was starting so I was a little scared because I didn’t want to get COVID and I didn’t want anyone else to get COVID,” said 10-year-old Odessa. “And I wanted everything to be as safe as possible.

“The first day, I was a little scared or worried. But then I noticed all the kids in my class are paying attention to the virus and some are talking about it. So I know they will try to be as safe as possible. And my teacher is always wearing a mask, so I’m not that worried now.”

Odessa, who has been sewing for two years, turned her passion into a small business during a lengthy self-isolation period. So far, her and her sister Thea have made 32 masks for their classmates – and they are now taking special orders from strangers.

“Maybe I won’t show symptoms of COVID but I might transmit it to my parents who are more vulnerable,” said Thea, 12.

RELATED: Quebec sounds the alarm

Quebec schools have been open for a week and 46 of them – out of 3,100 – have at least one case of COVID-19. Parents worry students could transmit the virus at home.

The government made public the list of schools late Friday afternoon hoping to be more transparent. But parents say they are still anxious and constantly awaiting emails from the school board.

“A couple of days in we got an email saying that there had been a case in her school, so again it’s been a rollercoaster,” said the girls’ mother, Jennifer Dorner. “The excitement and the enthusiasm, and then you get the school email.”

But the numbers aren’t worrying microbiologists.

Unlike the outbreaks and deaths linked to COVID-19 in long-term care homes in Quebec, none of the confirmed cases in schools have turned into outbreaks. There have been no reported widespread transmissions within a school either.

Specialists say the data suggests that young kids transmit less than adults, but that parents should continue following public-health guidelines such as physical distancing, frequent hand washing and wearing masks when moving about the school.

“What we do as a society is going to impact whether we can keep our schools open or not,” said Dr. Jesse Papenburg, a pediatric infectious disease specialist and microbiologist at the Montreal Children’s Hospital. “These were all imported cases: cases that were caught in the community and brought into a school.

“The more infections there are in the community, the more likely there’s going to be people infected – whether that’s teachers or students – and then that increases the risk of transmission in the schools.”