Lower Mainland teachers call on province to vaccinate all school-based workers as case counts rise

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A statement from teachers' unions from the Lower Mainland and South Coast says that after the health care sector, schools have had the most COVID-related WorkSafeBC claims since the start of the pandemic. (Ben Nelms/CBC - image credit)
A statement from teachers' unions from the Lower Mainland and South Coast says that after the health care sector, schools have had the most COVID-related WorkSafeBC claims since the start of the pandemic. (Ben Nelms/CBC - image credit)

Teachers associations across the Vancouver Coastal Health region are calling on the province to immediately vaccinate all school-based workers, citing rising case counts and a high number of school exposures.

In a written statement, presidents of teachers associations in Richmond, Vancouver, Powell River, the Sea to Sky, North Vancouver and West Vancouver said the province is failing to fulfil its promise to vaccinate all essential workers, including teachers, by end of April.

"That promise is not being fulfilled beyond some school districts in Fraser Health, such as Surrey. Teachers say it is time for Vancouver Coastal Health to follow suit and vaccinate school staff in districts with high numbers of school exposures," read the statement.

"The provincial government has opted to keep schools open. Now they need to ensure that schools can remain open by vaccinating the adults who work in schools. The pandemic has shifted, the case numbers are climbing, and the vaccination strategy must change."

Schools not subject to new WorkSafe closure rules

On Thursday B.C.'s Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry announced a new workplace closure order that will allow WorkSafeBC to operate under the Public Health Act. When three or more employees at a workplace test positive for COVID-19, it will be closed down for 10 days.

But essential workplaces, including schools, are exempt from the new regulations.

The statement from the teachers' associations said that after health care, the education sector has had the most COVID-related WorkSafeBC claims since the start of the pandemic.

West Vancouver Teachers' Association president Renée Willock wrote that given the highly infectious variants of concern infect younger people, those who work in schools should be given priority.

"We have heard reports of Pfizer and Moderna being used to target localized hot spots in B.C., and we'd like to see that extended to school staff," she wrote.

On Friday B.C. health officials announced 1,262 new cases of COVID-19 and two more deaths.

Over the last seven weeks in B.C., hospitalizations have risen by 53 per cent, while active ICU cases are up 63 per cent. In the last 12 days, 195 of the 366 new hospitalizations across B.C. have been in the Fraser Health authority.