(Metro Creative photo)

(Metro Creative photo)

UPDATE: B.C. announces amendments to school mask mandate amid COVID surge

Other provinces have brought in more stringent mask mandates for students

The province is amending its public health guidance to “support and encourage students down to Grade 4 to wear masks while at school.”

Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry made the announcement when she brought in a slew of new COVID restrictions Monday (March 29).

However, despite repeated requests, the province has not yet clarified what whether “support and encourage” means that masks will be mandatory. The B.C. Teachers’ Federation has said on social media that the mandate will mirror one imposed on Surrey this past weekend.

If so, the move could require masks at all times for students Grade 4, as in Surrey, except for when eating and for those medically unable to wear, or take on and off, a mask.

Henry’s announcement comes just an hour after the B.C. Teachers’ Federation called on the province to expand a recently imposed Surrey mask mandate to schools in Vancouver Coastal Health.

READ MORE: Canada to pause Oxford-AstraZeneca shots for under-55s

READ MORE: B.C. reports more than 2,500 COVID cases over the weekend as variants continue to spread

READ MORE: B.C. stops indoor dining, fitness, religious service due to COVID-19 spike

In a Monday news release, the BCTF pointed to federal officials urging stronger public health measures to prevent a resurgence in COVID cases as variants of concern continue to spread, as well as call for school mask mandates from Dr. Anthony Fauci south of the border. B.C. has seen near-record numbers of cases in recent days, with 908 reported Friday. The weekend’s cases are due to be reported early Monday afternoon.

Other provinces have brought in more stringent mask mandates for students; in Ontario, which has entered its third wave, masks are required from Grade 1 and up when kids cannot maintain physical distancing; in Quebec, students in Grade 1 and up in red zones must wear masks at all times, with loosened rules in orange zones with fewer infections.

In Surrey, which has continued to be a hotspot for COVID cases, masks were made mandatory “at all times” for students in Grade 4 and above as of this week. In the rest of B.C. masks have been mandatory since February in middle schools and high schools except for three scenarios: when students are at their own desk or workstation, when they are eating or drinking and when there is a plexiglass barrier between them.

Teachers’ associations across Vancouver Coastal Health said they need better communication.

“We have asked again and again for a mask mandate and we have been consistently disappointed. This is about adding layers of protection to ensure we have done everything possible to protect the health and safety of teachers and students. This is about increasing confidence in school safety and reducing anxiety,” said Liz Baverstock, president of the Richmond Teachers’ Association.

READ MORE: Masks required ‘at all times’ indoors for grades 4-12 at Surrey school district

READ MORE: B.C. mom frustrated by lack of mask mandate for elementary students

READ MORE: B.C. expands mandatory mask rules in schools, rolls out ‘rapid response teams’


@katslepian

katya.slepian@bpdigital.ca

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Want to support local journalism during the pandemic? Make a donation here.

CoronavirusEducationSchools

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

The Fraser River from Island 22 Regional Park in Chilliwack on April 14, 2021. (Jennifer Feinberg/ Chilliwack Progress)
Fraser River freshet 2021 to be shaped by weather patterns in weeks to come

Fraser snow basin index at 116 per cent above normal on April 1, according to River Forecast Centre

It’s the Valley Huskers (left) and the Regina Riot (right) in the final of Football Canada’s online logo contest.
Valley Huskers face Regina Riot in final of Football Canada logo contest

Vote in the online poll to see the scarecrow named the best amateur football logo in the country

A ambulance drives past the emergency entrance of Vancouver General Hospital in Vancouver, B.C., Friday, April 9, 2021. COVID-19 cases have been on a steady increase in the province of British Columbia over the past week. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
9 Lower Mainland hospitals to postpone non-urgent surgeries as hospitalizations surge

Record number of COVID-19 patients in hospitals across B.C.

(File)
Two injured in rollover crash on Seabird Island

One treated for serious, non-life threatening injuries

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and United States President Joe Biden smile as they say farewell following a virtual joint statement in Ottawa, Tuesday, February 23, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Trudeau pledges to cut emissions by 40% to 45% by 2030, short of U.S. goal

Trudeau announced target during a virtual climate summit convened by U.S. President Joe Biden

Minister of Public Safety and Solicitor General Mike Farnworth speaks to media at the Legislature in Victoria, B.C., on Monday February 5, 2018. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito
B.C. officials to announce travel restrictions today to limit COVID-19 spread

Mike Farnworth is expected to give details of what the government views as essential travel

Richard Desautel with supporters outside the courthouse in Nelson, B.C., in 2016. Photo: Bill Metcalfe
BREAKING: Sinixt, First Nation bordering Canada-U.S., can claim Indigenous rights, top court rules

The decision essentially reverses a 1956 declaration the Sinixt were extinct

White Rock council say closure of the city’s pier, promenade and parking lots are not under consideration at this time, but have approved other COVID-19 options for the waterfront including stepped-up RCMP patrols that are already part of detachment planning. (Aaron Hinks photo)
White Rock pier, promenade, parking lot closures off the table – for now

Council members warn decision subject to future provincial health orders

MLA Shirley Bond, right, answers questions during a press conference at Legislature in Victoria, B.C., on February 19, 2019. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito
Former B.C. gaming minister says she wasn’t told directly about dirty cash flowing to casinos

Shirley Bond said Thursday civil forfeiture, gang violence and gambling addiction were also major concerns in 2011

Memorial for Travis Selje on 64th Avenue in Cloverdale, west of 176th Street. (Photo: Tom Zillich)
Epilepsy-defence driver found not guilty in crash that killed Surrey teen Travis Selje

Accused testified she has no recollection of the crash and believes she had an epileptic seizure that caused the collision

RCMP Constable Etsell speaks to tourists leaving the area at a police roadblock on Westside Road south of Fintry, B.C., Thursday, July 23, 2009. THE CANADIAN PRESS/ Yvonne Berg
B.C. police say they take ‘exception’ to conducting roadblocks limiting travel

Asking the police to enforce roadblocks exposes officers to further risk and possible COVID-19 infections, says federation president Brian Sauve

As part of the province’s strategy to combat the opioid overdose crisis, take-home naloxone kits have been distributed throughout the province. (Courtesy of Gaëlle Nicolussi)
Vancouver Island could be at its worst point of overdose crises yet: medical health officer

Island Health issued overdose advisories for Victoria, various communities in the last two weeks

Firefighters carry equipment from the scene of Monday’s Willoughby fire. The April 19, 2021 blaze turned the Alexander Square development at the corner of 208th Street and 80th Avenue to rubble. (Rob Wilton/Special to Langley Advance Times)
Langley Fire: The aftermath of the inferno

The scene remains active as investigators work to determine a cause

Most Read