Teachers’ unions on central Vancouver Island are imploring the health authority to put stricter COVID-19 prevention measures in place.
In a press release, Nanaimo District and Mount Arrowsmith teachers’ associations said they are calling on Island Health to “implement more aggressive measures to combat the spread of COVID-19,” especially in light of variants that are spreading. It is disconcerting that epidemiologists are referring to B.C. as a “hot spot” for the P1 (Brazilian) variant, the unions said.
Denise Wood, Nanaimo-Ladysmith district union president, and Debbie Comer, Mount Arrowsmith district president, had a number of requests for the health authority, including allowances for “blended in-person and online learning” similar to an earlier phase of the pandemic.
“Timing is of the essence for this action, as secondary schools will change learning groups in a few days and thousands of students will be switching learning groups,” said the press release. “This poses a substantial increased risk for transmission in schools. The quarter turnaround is an opportune moment to implement a phase change to keep our students, their families and staff safe.”
The union leaders are also asking that masks for kindergarten to Grade 3 students be made mandatory.
“Primary teachers’ school days include close contact with their young students who may not understand the reasons for limiting physical contact,” the press release said. “In other community interactions, children as young as two must wear a mask; therefore, it should not be a problem for five- to eight-year-olds to do the same while attending school.”
The unions are also asking for information on the status of teacher vaccinations as essential workers, saying that with recent exposures at many Vancouver Island schools, “teachers must receive the vaccine as soon as possible.”
As COVID-19 variants are spreading, it is time to adapt and be more proactive in the battle against COVID-19, the unions said.
Island Health reported 32 new COVID-19 cases on Vancouver Island on April 20. The B.C. Centre for Disease Control, which uses a different reporting period, noted 28 new cases including 12 on the central Island.