Schools in B.C. set to re-open despite rising COVID-19 caseload - InfoNews

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Schools in B.C. set to re-open despite rising COVID-19 caseload

September 08, 2020 - 4:45 PM

Schools will open as scheduled, despite B.C.’s COVID-19 caseload growing enough for the province’s top doctor to start clamping down on public gatherings.

“We have been committed from the day that classes were suspended in March to making sure that we had the structure in place to support schools reopening as they did in June and as they're doing later this week,” Dr. Bonnie Henry said today, Sept. 8, after announcing the immediate closure of nightclubs and banquet halls due to a mounting number of outbreaks in these kinds of businesses.

The focus health officials have had since that time is figuring out what needed to be done to keep community transmission rates low enough that schools would be a safe environment, she said.

“And you know, we are very lucky in B.C. and it's partly because of the work that everybody has done together that our community transmission rates remain low,” she said. “We know that is the most important thing for getting schools going again.”

Unintended consequences of children not in the classroom are a growing concern and she said and that’s why B.C. needs to prioritize getting children back into a school setting, where they get both an education and some socialization.

“We will have long-term generational downsides (related to) that, so it is a priority,” she said.

That said, it will be a different kind of school year.

“I think there'll be a lot of outside activities, but it will be smaller numbers,” she said. “I don't see us having field trips, I don't see us having some of those larger group events where we go out and visit.”

She said there won’t likely be inter-school competitions either.

Dr. Henry said she’s already had feedback on adaptations, such as virtual trips to museums etc. and she’s been impressed.

“I've seen lots of really innovative ways that teachers are looking at doing this this fall and I have to say, my hat is off to our teachers and educators in B.C.,” she said. “They have come together in a way that is remarkable. And it's a very challenging time and I know, especially this week, there's a lot of anxiety. But I think there's a lot of excitement as well.”

Dr. Henry offered assurances that public health would be there to support teachers and school communities.

“We are going to make it through this,” she said. “This school year will be unique and different and it's going to be an adjustment for the first couple of weeks. “

Dr. Henry also reiterated that to make sure these environments can flourish, the community has to start getting back to COVID-19 basics, which means reducing social connections to six.

“We need to find those balances that trade-off in our own family, to make sure that we can support children going back to school safely,” she said.

That means keep your social network to six.

“It was what we had talked about before, and that's what we’re looking at,” she said.

There were 429 new cases from Friday to Monday, Sept. 8. That raises the total number of cases in B.C. to 6,591.

To contact a reporter for this story, email Kathy Michaels or call 250-718-0428 or email the editor. You can also submit photos, videos or news tips to the newsroom and be entered to win a monthly prize draw.

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