B.C. COVID-19 mask mandate extended to all K-12 students, staff

Mask mandate for students extended to include all K-12 students an staff in B.C.

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File photo: Students line up outside of RSS during the 2020 school year. Photo: Aaron Orlando/Revelstoke Mountaineer Magazine

In an Oct. 1 announcement, the B.C. government has expanded its COVID-19 school mask mandate to all K-12 students and staff in the province.

This includes indoor spaces and while students are at their desks and on school buses.

In the announcement, B.C. Provincial Health Officer, Dr. Bonnie Henry, said a rise in infections in school-aged children in the past month had “increased number of potential exposures” and has led to more school clusters.

The new mask measures will be in place for this semester, at least.

Previously, masking was required for students in Grade 4 and up to Grade 12.

The schools ministry will update their guidelines to reflect the new measures.

See details on the updated guidelines in this provincial government document.

New monthly schools report

In a joint health and education ministry statement, the government said it would be creating a new monthly report focusing on, “the virus and how it effects school-aged children.”

Test positive and exposure notification times

In response to a question about the current times for reporting test results to the school community, Dr. Henry said people can get their individual notification in under 24 hours, but that it may take longer.

Dr. Henry mentioned Northern Health and Interior Health as areas where they have been longer waits due to higher number of cases.

“There’s a finite pool of people to do that work,” Dr. Henry said. She said the test result is “usually within 24 hours.”

“It can be a delay of two or three days,” Henry said. “I think we all need to recognize that this does take time.”

She said the result is that infectious students could be in schools in the interim.

Cohort question

Last school year, the B.C. government used a cohort system designed to limit exposures between students. In response to questions, the health officer and education minister said the cohort system created too many administrative challenges and it would not be returning; however, they said that elements of the program that were effective have been retained as part of ongoing COVID-19 mitigation measures.

No Revelstoke school exposures listed in 2021-22

So far in the 2021-22 school year, there have been no school exposures listed in Revelstoke on the Interior Health school exposures website, including the School District No. 19 or School District. No. 93, which operates L’école des Glaciers.

Resident school exposure data initiative celebrates announcement, but encourages further steps

A school exposure tracking initiative led by residents seeking to fill the gaps left by the B.C. government’s public health data practices around school exposures celebrated the announcement, but added more was needed to protect students.

“We celebrate this; however, it is bitter-sweet as we should not have had to fight for this! Masks alone are not enough. Masks are one layer and we still need other layers of protection (Ventilation, distancing, remote options, transparent reporting of cases),” the group said in a statement to social media soon after the announcement, “We want to thank all the parents and school staff for speaking up, being loud and forcing the government to take this obvious step!”

The group has created a website that tracks school exposure incidents in B.C.