British Columbia on Friday is expected to announce additional safety measures for schools across the province to prevent the spread of COVID-19.
The announcement comes as Vancouver, Surrey and Burnaby are set to expand the mask mandate on Monday to include all students K-12.
Currently schools in the province are mandated to have students in grades 4 to 12 wear masks, as well as all adults in the school.
Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry and education minister Jennifer Whiteside are expected to announce the measures in a press conference at 10:30 a.m. on Friday.
The announcement will be carried live on this page and on BC1.
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On Tuesday, Henry was asked why she would not expand the mask mandate, leaving it up to local school boards to do so.
The province’s top doctor has been reluctant to expand the mask mandate and pointed to data that shows transmission is higher among those aged nine to 11 than ages five to eight. Both of those age groups cannot be vaccinated, but the nine-to-11 group is currently required to wear masks.
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Even so, Henry did not dismiss the idea of eventually changing the mandate.
“We know that the things that we need to have in place in schools to prevent transmission in the school setting are myriad,” Henry said.
“I have tasked our school team to look at every individual situation and particularly look at those communities where we have higher transmission rates and lower vaccination rates to see what we need to do in the province to make sure we can make schools continue to operate safely.”
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Provincial data modelling provided by B.C. health officials on Tuesday showed COVID-19 cases continue to rise among school-aged children following the return of school in September.
The data shows as of mid-September, children aged five to eight years old and those aged nine to 11 lead the way for transmission of the virus.
As of this week, around 30 people out of 100,000 aged nine to 11 in B.C. are getting COVID-19, and 22 out of 100,000 aged five to eight are getting the virus. The next highest age group is 18-to-39-year-olds, at a rate of 15 out of every 100,000.
The province did not provide similar data for those zero to four years old.
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