Safe Schools Coalition BC says public schools are not a place where families and children can “manage their own risk.”
The provincial government should reverse the course of a plan to remove mask mandates in schools after the spring break, says the advocate group Safe Schools Coalition BC.
Referring to Nova Scotia’s decision to keep masks on children, BC should follow suit to prevent further COVID-19 infections, says group leader Jen Heighton.
“Education leaders need to recognize that public schools are unique in this pandemic. Public schools are NOT a place where families and children can ‘manage their own risk’. It is not the same as choosing to eat indoors at a restaurant or walk in. the cinema with masked people. Children must go to school, “wrote Heighton, a schoolteacher, in an open letter to government and education stakeholders.
On March 10, the province’s health worker Dr. Bonnie Henry that when students and staff return from the spring break, they will have the opportunity to choose whether they want to disguise themselves or not.
“It’s been two long and strenuous years. Our masks have provided a level of comfort and protection. I want to assure you that I feel confident in what we do and that we are in a position to do so now. “These decisions are based on science,” Henry said at the time.
What is less clear is whether school districts can retain their own mask mandate. (Henry has said mandates can return during a new wave of infections.)
Safe Schools Coalition BC, a group of parents, grandparents and educators, says that full vaccination rates for children aged 5-11 years remain “stopped” at 30% and that those under five remain unvaccinated.
There are about 517,000 children up to the age of 10 in the province. It is unclear, due to lack of test capacity, how many children have had the virus passed through them.
Omicron infections have sent more children to the hospital than since the start of the pandemic, the group notes in its letter. According to the BC Center for Disease Control, 172 children under the age of 10 have been in the hospital since March 2020 until December 11, 2021; from December 11, 2021 to March 5, a further 173 have been hospitalized.
Pediatricians are concerned about the long-term effects of COVID-19, Heighton said, and the Omicron sub-variant BA.2, which is on the rise in parts of Europe and Asia.
“Study after study shows that COVID-19 is a vascular disease, not a respiratory disease, and that it results in damage to the brain, heart, lungs, nerves and other organs, even after mild cases,” states the group, which claims to enter for “for evidence-based COVID-19 security measures in British Columbia’s K-12 schools.”
The group cited a study from the National Institutes of Health; The study claims that schools with mandatory masking under the Delta variant last fall had approximately 72% fewer cases of SARS-CoV-2 virus transmission in school compared to schools with optional or partial masking policies.
However, Heighton admits that there is no concrete evidence – at least as yet – of the mask’s effectiveness with the Omicron variant, which is much more transferable. The group’s letter says Omicron could spread in the air like measles, according to some experts reported by the Daily Mirror.
Canada’s Chief Public Health Officer said in December that a well-fitting respirator is the only safe remedy to prevent the spread of Omicron, as drug masks are ineffective.
Children’s use of fabric masks, and whether they are worn effectively, raises questions about the cost and benefits of masking children, especially the youngest, who are still developing basic hearing, speaking and reading skills. Jurisdictions around the world are different in terms of their policies.
But Heighton says such concerns remain controversial, and a report last week from NPR.org shows new research that could dismiss such concerns, raised mainly by speech pathologists and audiologists.
And Heighton said it is natural that masking can still prevent some virus particles from escaping into the air.
Asked if respirators are a reasonable and practical measure for the hundreds of thousands of BC students, Heighton said that respirators can be reused if properly cleaned.
If they are not, however, dirty masks can easily become contaminated and spread not only coronavirus but also others, research shows.
If the virus escapes masks that are either ineffective or improperly worn by children, then this is all the more reason to add air purifiers and upgrade air systems in schools, Heighton said, adding that it is a simultaneous requirement that the group makes.
To improve ventilation in schools, the province said on March 15 that it will provide $ 48 million in 2022-23 to upgrade HVAC systems at 90 schools around BC. Since the start of the pandemic, the Department of Education has provided $ 163.1 million in provincial and federal funding for plumbing upgrades.
Safe Schools Coalition BC concluded its letter, saying it “encourages all education stakeholders and leaders to apply the precautionary principle to BC’s K-12 public schools and continue the mesh mandate for this school year so that all children can be safer from BA. 2 variants as well as future variants. ”
The group also claims that COVID prevention is a human rights issue.
Glacier Media has contacted the British Columbia School Trustees Association for comment and will update this article when it receives a response.