Will masks return to Vancouver schools in the fall?

What COVID-19 protections should or will be implemented in BC schools is a priority for many parents with the start of the new school year just a month away.

A Vancouver school board candidate, Dr. Karina Zeidler, comes on a platform to put up masks because she says it will protect students and the community from COVID-19.

She said if elected in the fall, she will work to bring back universal masking to Vancouver public schools.

“Universal masking is one of the easiest and fastest things we can do. [to help decrease transmission],” she said. “Children are used to it, they have done it. Parents are used to preparing their children for school and being part of it. Teachers taught in classrooms with masks. So it’s something that everyone knows about, and I think it would be an easy thing to implement.

Zeidler says this jeopardizes the health, safety and education of children most vulnerable to the disease.

“What really amazes me is that it’s so discriminatory not to have a universal mask in schools,” she said. “The lack of a mask mandate…primarily affects people who are already marginalized and this includes…immunocompromised children with disabilities, low-income children, Indigenous and racialized children and their families.”

“Despite all the narrative that [COVID-19] is over and we should just learn to live with it or ignore it, it’s still a huge problem,” she added.

VSB says there are no plans to impose masks

In an email to Daily Hive, the Vancouver School Board said the school district was following health and safety guidelines provided by the BC Center for Disease Control.

“Under current guidelines, the decision to wear a mask beyond what is recommended by public health is a personal decision, based on individual preference. All schools are mask-friendly environments. Staff and students who choose to wear additional personal prevention measures are respected. »

Expert says it’s a personal choice

Dr. Brian Conway of the Vancouver Infectious Diseases Center says mask-wearing is the individual responsibility of British Columbians.

To support schools in this era of COVID-19, he said, schools should be set up to send anyone who is sick home, regardless of the circumstances.

“We have to accept that COVID is not gone and there is no time in the foreseeable future that we can expect it to go away.”

Conway says he believes the COVID-19 guidelines the province now has are “where we need to be.”

“I don’t think the start of the school year will be a large-scale event. There is no evidence to think that in the future, ”he assures.

“Schools tend to be a safer environment than the environment outside of schools, simply because we know who goes to school. We know who is coming out. We know who is sick and who is not sick, and we can intervene quite quickly. And over time, it’s the same people interacting with the same people, which is a very different and safer environment than having different groups of people in different indoor environments on a day-to-day basis.

Instead, Conway encourages families, teachers and children to have conversations about the importance of vaccines, as children in British Columbia have the lowest vaccination rates of any age group.

“We are still not doing very well in the 5 to 11 group. About half of the eligible children have been vaccinated. I would use the start of the school year to have a discussion about this as much as anything else.

Conway says vaccines are B.C.’s “first line of defense,” dramatically reducing community spread.

“We have, for me, a bit of a cognitive dissent, in a sense that people are saying, ‘Well, we should reimpose the mask mandate,’ rather than saying, ‘We should really have a good discussion about the getting the other half of kids ages 5 to 11 vaccinated because that’s what helped the adults, it helped the older population.

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