(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

Elvira D’Angelo, 92, waits to receive her COVID-19 vaccination shot at a clinic in Montreal, Sunday, March 7, 2021, as the COVID-19 pandemic continues in Canada and around the world. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Graham Hughes
110 new cases of COVID-19 in Interior Health

Provincial health officers announced 1,005 new cases throughout B.C.

The Creston Valley Hospital's chief of staff squashed any rumours about temporary seasonal workers spreading COVID-19 around town on Aug. 6. Aaron Hemens - Creston Valley Advance
Five active cases of COVID-19 in Creston

There has been a total of 47 cases in the community since January 2020

A new park is under development for the Lower Kootenay Band. Ken White, facility and operations manager, holds up the draft plans with Nasukin Jason Louie on the construction site. (Photo by Kelsey Yates)
Lower Kootenay Band develops plan for new memorial park

The new Kulilu Garden will serve as a memorial for children who died from polio and tuberculosis in the 1930s and 40s

Tala MacDonald, a 17-year-old student at Mount Sentinel Secondary who is also a volunteer firefighter, has won the $100,000 Loran Scholarship. Photo: Submitted
West Kootenay student wins $100K scholarship

Tala MacDonald is one of 30 Canadians to receive the Loran Scholarship

Rainbow trouts thrashing with life as they’re about to be transferred to the largest lake of their lives, even though it’s pretty small. These rainbows have a blue tinge because they matched the blue of their hatchery pen, but soon they’ll take on the green-browns of their new home at Lookout Lake. (Zoe Ducklow/News Staff)
VIDEO: B.C. lake stocked with hatchery trout to delight of a seniors fishing club

The Cherish Trout Scouts made plans to come back fishing soon

B.C. Health Minister Adrian Dix and Premier John Horgan describe vaccine rollout at the legislature, March 29, 2021. (B.C. government)
B.C. health minister says delay in Moderna vaccine ‘disappointing’

‘The sooner we get vaccines in people’s arms the better, and inconsistency in delivery is a consistent problem. This is simply a reality and not an issue of blame,’ Adrian Dix said Friday

(Police handout/Kamloops RCMP)
B.C. man dies in custody awaiting trial for Valentine’s Day robbery, kidnapping spree

Robert James Rennie, who was on the Kamloops RCMP’s most wanted list, passed away at the North Fraser Pretrial Centre in Coquitlam

Photos of Vancouver Canucks players are pictured outside the closed box office of Rogers Arena in downtown Vancouver Thursday, April 8, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
Canucks games against Leafs postponed as team returns from COVID-19

The team has had 11 games postponed since an outbreak late last month

Danita Bilozaze and her daughter Dani in Comox. Photo by Karen McKinnon
Island woman makes historic name change for truth and reconciliation

Becomes first person in Canada to be issued new passport under the TRC Calls to Action

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

Royal Inland Hospital in Kamloops. (Dave Eagles/Kamloops This Week file photo)
RCMP intercept vehicle fleeing with infant taken from Kamloops hospital

The baby was at the hospital receiving life-saving care

Vancouver Police Const. Deepak Sood is under review by the Independent Investigations Office of B.C. after making comments to a harm reduction advocate Sunday, April 11. (Screen grab)
VIDEO: Vancouver officer convicted of uttering threats under watchdog review again

Const. Deepak Sood was recorded Sunday saying ‘I’ll smack you’ and ‘go back to selling drugs’ to a harm reduction advocate

Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry prepares a daily update on the coronavirus pandemic, April 21, 2020. (B.C. Government)
B.C.’s COVID-19 infection rate persists, 1,005 new cases Friday

Hospitalization up to 425, six more virus-related deaths

Most Read