Masks now required for all students in schools across B.C.

VANCOUVER (NEWS 1130) – All children will have to wear masks in schools starting Monday, when B.C.’s mandate is expanded beyond the previous 4-12 requirement.

Masks are mandatory for all students, regardless of what grade they are in. All staff and visitors are also required to wear masks.

Students must wear face coverings even while they are at their desks, as well as while on school buses. They can take them off temporarily to take part in high-intensity physical activity or play wind instruments, as well as to eat or drink. Staff who are helping someone with a disability or diverse ability where visual cues, facial expressions and/or lip reading is important, are not required to wear a mask.

The new policy is expected to be in place until at least the end of the first school term.

The edict came down on Friday and was greeted with relief by stakeholders like the BC Teachers’ Federation and school boards — some of which had already brought in their own mask mandates.

Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry says the decision was based on a spike in COVID-19 cases among children, especially in kids aged five to 11 who are too young to be vaccinated.

“The majority of COVID transmission continues to occur in homes and through social networks and we’ve seen that throughout this pandemic, but we are also seeing a significant increase in testing in school-aged children,” she said Friday. “Nevertheless, increased diagnosis has led to increasing numbers of potential exposure events, and several school outbreaks have also been detected and reported.”

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People who cannot tolerate wearing a mask for health or behavioural reasons are exempt from the policy, as are people who are not able to put on or remove a mask without help.

Despite B.C.’s mask mandate being expanded for students, there are still other measures many would like to see the province bring in or make more comprehensive. That includes calls for a more detailed testing strategy, as well as the potential for vaccine clinics within schools.

Meanwhile, B.C.’s top doctor has said a first in a series of “school-specific” reports from the BC Centre for Disease Control is expected in mid-October. The findings of that report are expected to be available to parents, school communities, and the public.

-With files from NEWS 1130 staff

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