B.C. teachers demand more action after warning over school closures
The B.C. Teachers’ Federation wants more action taken to protect teachers and students from COVID-19 after the provincial health officer warned of an urgent need for action to reduce transmission risk in schools.
BCTF president Teri Mooring was referring to a statement in a health order issued on Monday afternoon by Dr. Bonnie Henry that gave regional medical health officers the power to order school boards to gather vaccination information from people working in public schools.
In the order , Henry states “in some health regions or parts of health regions of the province there is an immediate and urgent need for focused action to reduce the risk of transmission of (COVID-19) in schools and to ensure continuity of school services.”
Mooring said that her organization had been raising the alarm about COVID-19 in B.C. schools but “what we have heard is the same information that we’ve heard all along, that schools are safe and safer than other environments that children are in.”
“There are things in the order that we haven’t heard before,” Mooring said. “One is that there is a need for immediate action to stop the spread of Omicron in schools.”
Mooring said she was also surprised to see in the order that a lack of information about the vaccination status of school staff was interfering with the suppression of COVID-19 and now constituted a health hazard under the Public Health Act.
“We agree there is a need for urgent action,” she said. “But that action should also be around N95 masks for education workers and booster shots for teachers and action on ventilation systems and rapid testing. If there is a need for urgent action then put in a vaccine mandate.”
The BCTF has signed a letter of agreement with the B.C. Public School Employers’ Association and the Canadian Union of Public Employees on a sector-wide approach to proof of vaccination requirements if districts decide to implement a vaccine mandate (as the Delta School District has done.)
Mooring said rapid tests had not yet arrived in B.C. schools. Last Friday Health Minister Adrian Dix promised 300,000 rapid tests would arrive in schools over the next week.
According to the B.C. School Covid Tracker on Facebook (that records COVID-19 exposures, outbreaks and closures) there have been COVID cases at 1,093 schools since the start of the school year last September – that’s more than half of B.C.’s schools.
Health authorities will investigate a school if there are a certain percentage of students absent on any given day. So far, four of B.C.’s 1,921 public and independent schools have been closed due to not enough staff available for teaching due to sickness.
Henry is expected to discuss COVID-19 in schools during a press conference to be held on Tuesday at 1:30 p.m. The event can be viewed here .