VANCOUVER — British Columbia's provincial health officer has mandated masks for all schoolchildren across the province after three school districts announced their own policies to include kindergarten-to-Grade 3 students.
Dr. Bonnie Henry says she has heard the concerns of parents as COVID-19 cases have risen over the last couple of weeks among kids, especially those between the ages of five and 11, and in communities with lower vaccination rates.
Henry says her school mask mandate will be in place until at least January, when it will be assessed based on whether vaccines would be available for children under 12.
She says school staff who were prioritized for vaccination should be immunized as well to reduce the risk of COVID-19 entering schools at a time when more respiratory illnesses are circulating and so families can gather for Thanksgiving.
School districts in Vancouver, Surrey and Burnaby had already announced that a provincial mask mandate for students in Grade 4 and up would be extended to younger kids, leaving 57 other school districts to either introduce policies independently or wait for Henry to impose a provincewide measure.
The provincial health officer says a return to learning cohorts has not been considered because it caused significant challenges in the operation of schools when other strategies like reducing group gatherings and assemblies were more effective in reducing COVID-19 transmission.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Oct. 1, 2021.
The Canadian Press