A new province-wide policy regarding face masks for students in B.C. schools is in effect today (Oct. 4), which means every student from Kindergarten to Grade 12 must don a mask while indoors, including while seated at their desk.
The new mandate was issued Friday by Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry and B.C.'s Minister of Education Jennifer Whiteside, and reflects the addition of K-3 students, who had previously been exempted. Prior to this week, masks for B.C.'s youngest school-aged kids were considered "recommended" and at parental discretion.
In recent days, however, several B.C. school districts created their own mandates regarding K-3 students and masks, including those in Vancouver and Surrey.
Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry said the order will be in place for the remainder of the school term “as one additional layer to help reduce risk of transmission in classrooms, in schools.”
Henry and Education Minister Jennifer Whiteside have been under mounting pressure from parents and the B.C. Teachers’ Federation to do more in schools to reduce the possibility of transmission of COVID-19, and to report possible exposures.
With increasing cases of COVID in children age five through 11, for whom there is not yet an approved vaccine, the teachers’ union has been advocating for a mask mandate for children from kindergarten to Grade 3.
B.C. health authorities are also required to post school COVID-19 exposures on their website. As of today, no schools in Vancouver are on the exposure list, according to Vancouver Coastal Health's website.
With files from Cindy E. Harnett / Times Colonist