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Masks now mandatory for all B.C. students

New rules require masks for Kindergarten to Grade 3, which were previously exempt from the mandate
Teacher Joy Harrison instructs her second graders as California Gov. Gavin Newsom visits the classroom at Carl B. Munck Elementary School, Wednesday, Aug. 11, 2021, in Oakland, Calif. Gov. (Santiago Mejia/San Francisco Chronicle via AP, Pool)

After months of pressure and climbing COVID infections in children, the province has now made masks mandatory for B.C. students from Kindergarten to Grade 3.

Beginning on Monday, Oct. 4, all B.C. students from Kindergarten to Grade 12 will be required to wear face masks while at their desks and on buses.

The public health office has also committed to releasing a new monthly report that will detail the impact COVID-19 is having on school-aged children.

“This pandemic continues to evolve and so do we,” said Dr. Bonnie Henry, provincial health officer. “We need to make changes to fit the situation as it’s arising. We know the COVID-19 virus is being transmitted more rapidly, particularly to those who don’t have the protection that vaccination offers. This extra measure adds another layer of protection as we navigate this phase of the pandemic.”

Safety guidelines allow options for schools to reduce congestion in hallways, as well as staggering start times and breaks for students. Henry recommended that schools try to enact these policies as best they can.

At a news conference, B.C. Teachers Federation president Teri Mooring welcomed the new mask mandate — the BCTF has called for a K–12 mask mandate since before the start of the school year. Mooring added that she’s grateful for the additional information set to come from the province.

“We’re still working around ventilation information being supplied to schools and families,” Mooring said. “We know that there are places where that’s happening and places where that information is not forthcoming.”

Mooring said she wanted to hear more about in-school vaccination clinics for students aged 12 and up, she also said she wanted to see a province-wide rapid testing strategy for students, including students without symptoms.

When asked about a vaccine mandate for B.C. teachers, Mooring said the BCTF is open to the idea, so long as the privacy of teachers is protected and there are measures in place to accommodate medical exemptions. At this time, there is no vaccine mandate for teachers or school staff.

B.C. School COVID Tracker, an independent group of parents that tracks school exposures and broadcasts them across social media, has tallied 700 exposures affecting 323 schools so far this year.

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