(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 B.C. Centre for Disease Control has listed Harbour Air and Air Canada flights to and from Nanaimo, from April 3, 4 and 12, on its list of flights with COVID-19. (News Bulletin file)
COVID-19 cases reported for Air Canada, Harbour Air flights, says disease control centre

Nanaimo flights for April 3, 4 and 12 listed on BCCDC’s list of flights with COVID-19

Rebates through Clean B.C.’s Better Homes New Construction program are available, says the City of Nanaimo. (Vancouver Island University photo)
Energy-efficient home builds in Nanaimo eligible for up to $15K in rebates

All building permits issued on, or after, April 1, 2020 eligible, says City of Nanaimo

Pat Kauwell, a semi-retired construction manager, lives in his fifth-wheel trailer on Maxey Road because that’s what he can afford on his pension, but a Regional District of Nanaimo bylaw prohibits using RVs as permanent dwellings, leaving Kauwell and others like him with few affordable housing options. (Chris Bush/News Bulletin)
Housing crunch or not, it’s illegal to live in an RV in Nanaimo

Regional District of Nanaimo bylaw forcing pensioner to move RV he calls home off private farm land

Heidi Sinclair, executive director of Nanaimo Community Kitchens, left, accepts a $13,500 donation from 100-plus Women Who Care Mid Island, represented by Nahanni Ackroyd and Shannon Gorgichuk. (Photo submitted)
Caring women in Nanaimo give generously to community kitchen society

100-plus Women Who Care Mid Island donate $13,500 to Nanaimo Community Kitchens Society

Nanaimo Regional General Hospital. (News Bulletin file photo)
UPDATE: Another COVID-19 case found as part of NRGH outbreak

Four patients tested positive for the virus in NRGH’s high-intensity rehab unit

Noel Brown, Snuneymuxw First Nation carver, observes the house post he carved, which now is situated in front of the Kw’umut Lelum centre on Centre Street in Nanaimo. (Karl Yu/News Bulletin)
House post representative of work of Kw’umut Lelum in Nanaimo

Snuneymuxw First Nation artist Noel Brown’s carved red cedar house post unveiled Friday, April 16

Russ Ball (left) and some of the team show off the specimen after they were able to remove it Friday. Photo supplied
Courtenay fossil hunter finds ancient turtle on local river

The specimen will now make its home at the Royal BC Museum

Pall Bearers carrying the coffin of the Duke of Edinburgh, followed by the Prince of Wales, left and Princess Anne, right, into St George’s Chapel for his funeral, at Windsor Castle, in Windsor, England, Saturday April 17, 2021. (Danny Lawson/Pool via AP)
Trudeau announces $200K donation to Duke of Edinburgh award as Prince Philip laid to rest

A tribute to the late prince’s ‘remarkable life and his selfless service,’ the Prime Minister said Saturday

B.C. homeowners are being urged to take steps to prepare for the possibility of a flood by moving equipment and other assets to higher ground. (J.R. Rardon)
‘Entire province faces risk’: B.C. citizens urged to prepare for above-average spring flooding

Larger-than-normal melting snowpack poses a threat to the province as warmer weather touches down

Vancouver-based Doubleview Gold Corp. is developing claims in an area north of Telegraph Creek that occupies an important place in Tahltan oral histories, said Chad Norman Day, president of the Tahltan Central Government. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO)
B.C. Indigenous nation opposes mineral exploration in culturally sensitive area

There’s “no way” the Tahltan would ever support a mine there, says Chad Norman Day, president of its central government

Stz’uminus Elder George Harris, Ladysmith Mayor Aaron Stone, and Stz’uminus Chief Roxanne Harris opened the ceremony. (Cole Schisler photo)
Symbolic red dresses rehung along B.C. highway after vandals tore them down

Leaders from Stz’uminus First Nation and the Town of Ladysmith hung new dresses on Sat. April 17

A Western toadlet crosses the centre line of Elk View Road in Chilliwack on Aug. 26, 2010. A tunnel underneath the road has since been installed to help them migrate cross the road. Saturday, April 24 is Save the Frogs Day. (Jenna Hauck/ Progress File)
Unofficial holidays: Here’s what people are celebrating for the week of April 18 to 24

Save the Frogs Day, Love Your Thighs Day and Scream Day are all coming up this week

Local carpenter Tyler Bohn embarked on a quest to create the East Sooke Treehouse, after seeing people build similar structures on a Discovery Channel show. (East Sooke Treehouse Facebook photo)
PHOTOS: B.C. carpenter builds fort inspired by TV’s ‘Treehouse Masters’

The whimsical structure features a wooden walking path, a loft, kitchen – and is now listed on Airbnb

The Attorney General’s Ministry says certain disputes may now be resolved through either a tribunal or the court system, pending its appeal of a B.C. Supreme Court decision that reduced the tribunal’s jurisdiction. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)
Court of Appeal grants partial stay in ruling on B.C. auto injuries

B.C. trial lawyers challenged legislation brought in to cap minor injury awards and move smaller court disputes to the Civil Resolution Tribunal

Most Read