A Cowichan Valley mom is wondering why masks haven’t been mandated for elementary schools. (Metro Creative photo)

A Cowichan Valley mom is wondering why masks haven’t been mandated for elementary schools. (Metro Creative photo)

Vancouver Island mom frustrated by lack of mask mandate for elementary students

“Do we want to wait until we end up like Fraser Health?”

A Cowichan Valley mother is frustrated that elementary school students haven’t been mandated — or at least strongly encouraged — to wear masks to school during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Ashley, who asked that her last name not be used, is taking two weeks off from her job in the health care system because her son is required to self-isolate after an exposure at his school last week. Being away from work isn’t her main worry, but she feels bad missing time during a health emergency

“There is a big need for health care workers at this time,” she pointed out. “And now I’m having to lose time from my job.”

She sends her own son to school wearing a mask, and wishes that more parents would do the same if the provincial government won’t make it mandatory. She said she has talked to parents at other schools who feel the same way.

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“Prevention is what we’re taught in healthcare,” Ashley pointed out. “Do we want to wait until we end up like Fraser Health?”

Fraser Health has seen the highest number of COVID-19 cases in the province.

Middle and secondary school students are currently required by the provincial government to wear masks when not at their desks, but that does not apply in elementary schools.

“We do encourage a culture of mask wearing in all our schools and support families in any decision they wish to make around mask wearing,” explained Mike Russell, spokesperson for the Cowichan Valley School District. “Masks are one added layer of protection that supplement other proven measures like hand washing and physical distancing.”

Russell added that neither the school district nor individual schools can add to or override the provincial guidelines. Children under the age of 12 are not provincially mandated to wear masks.

Ashley, who has been urging people to contact the offices of Minister of Health Adrian Dix and Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry about mandating masks for younger students, feels kids are getting mixed messages about mask-wearing.

“When a child goes to the store, they have to wear a mask, but when they’re going to school they don’t have to wear one?” she questioned. “I understand they are following a protocol, but we all know what the right thing is to do.”

There is a lack of understanding, Ashley said, about why people are asked to wear masks, and some people have been led to believe that children can’t get sick from COVID-19, which is not true.

“People don’t understand they can also be carriers,” she added.

She is also concerned that people on Vancouver Island have been complacent because the region has been spared from the numbers experienced in the Lower Mainland and other parts of the province, and because there haven’t been as many exposures in elementary schools.

“I hope people will take this seriously and change their ways,” she said. “Prevention is key. People should be doing everything possible to minimize this. I get that kids need to go to school, but we also need to keep the exposures down.”

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