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BC Advocacy Groups and Experts call on BC Government to Put Stronger COVID Safety Protocols in Place in BC Schools

Open letter from Protect Our Province BC and allies to Minister of Health Adrian Dix and Education Minister Jennifer Whiteside, demanding COVID-19 safety protocols in BC schools:

Dear Minister Adrian Dix and Minister Jennifer Whiteside, 

Roughly half a million students are set to return to British Columbian schools in a matter of weeks, for their third Unsafe September. Each and every child deserves to be in school without getting sick. Each one deserves equitable access to their education. And each one deserves meaningful protection from COVID-19 (and now also Monkeypox).

Schools are indoor congregate settings where children spend hours together with educators and other children. Each of them has their own social connections who are themselves connected to others in the community. Many BC schools have insufficient ventilation and classroom air quality adding up to a perfect setting for COVID-19 transmission via aerosols across both short and longer distances.

We know what to do to prevent harm from happening. The federal government knows this, and is providing BC with $11.9 million dollars as part of the Safe Return to Class Fund “to ensure the air in our classrooms is as clean as possible for students, teachers, and staff.”

With schools about to reopen, the time for the BC government to act is now.

The signatories of this letter demand:

  • Universal masking, with high quality masks, such as KN95 or better, to control COVID-19 at the source. High quality masks must be provided for free by the government to ensure equity of access and protection;
  • Ventilation to keep the air flowing in classrooms so it is as clean, fresh and virus-free as possible. Cleaner air also means better cognitive function as well as prevention of other airborne diseases. The recently updated American Society of Heating, Refrigerating and Air-Conditioning Engineers (ASHRAE) Epidemic Taskforce guidance should be followed, including the use of tools to monitor air quality such as CO2 monitors, based on the advice of qualified professionals as per regulatory requirements;
  • HEPA filtration in every classroom as an added layer to catch harmful particles within classroom air, from viral particles to wildfire smoke;
  • Test, Trace, and Isolate policies, that are based on airborne spread and include 'test to exit' strategies for those infected, to reduce the introduction of COVID-19 into schools in the first place;
  • Classroom COVID-19 notifications to allow parents/ guardians to make fully informed risk assessments for their children and families;
  • Equitable remote options for children who are at high risk, or those who live with at-risk family members, to allow them to access education, a human right, without risking their health (which is also a human right);
  • Support for parents/ guardians by addressing their concerns and making it easier for them to get their children vaccinated and boosted. This will lower the risk of transmission, infection and long-term illness.

As an added bonus, putting all of these layers in place to reduce school and community transmission means that parents will miss less work due to infection, won’t have to isolate with sick children at home, and won’t bring COVID-19 into their workplaces, which benefits everyone and the economy.

Also, planning needs to start now to provide adequate resources to support online learning for students who are isolating, and revisit appropriate learning group sizes to allow distancing to reduce the risk of close range aerosol transmission during this COVID-19 pandemic.

It is long past time for the government of British Columbia and BC Public Health leadership to start following the best available science to protect the residents of BC, especially our youngest and most vulnerable.

Our children should not be repeatedly exposed to and infected with a novel virus. Avoiding COVID-19 infection is the best way to ensure a future full of potential and free from (further) disability for all our children.

The BC government must accept the reality of how COVID-19 spreads through aerosols; the reality that children do get infected and in turn infect their families and communities; the reality that our schools are presently ill-prepared to prevent the spread of this infection; and the reality that COVID-19, a novel virus, can harm our children.

Minister Dix, Minister Whiteside, and the entire BC NDP caucus: you have within your power, the ability to protect our children and prevent harm from occurring.

The time to act is now, for the sake of BC’s children, their families, school staff, and all workplaces and communities within the province.

SIGNATORIES:

Protect Our Province BC, including:

  • Dr. Lyne Filiatrault, retired Emergency Physician, Protect Our Province BC
  • Dr. Brenda Hardie, Family Physician, Clinical Assistant Professor, UBC Faculty of Medicine, Protect Our Province BC
  • Dr. Susan Kuo, Family Physician, Clinical Assistant Professor, UBC Faculty of Medicine, Protect Our Province BC
  • Dr. Karina Zeidler, Family Physician, Clinical instructor, UBC Faculty of Medicine, Co-founder of Protect Our Province BC, Trustee Candidate for Vancouver School Board with Vote Socialist municipal party

Safe Schools Coalition BC, including:

  • Victoria Chung, parent, Safe Schools Coalition BC
  • Jennifer Heighton BSc (Physics), Teacher, Safe Schools Coalition BC, Co-founder Protect Our Province BC
  • Tom Jackman, parent and disability rights advocate, Safe Schools Coalition BC
  • Nathalie Kos, DMD, parent, Safe Schools Coalition BC
  • Annie Ohana, Indigenous Department Head, Surrey School teacher, Safe Schools Coalition BC
  • Karen Tsang, Vancouver DPAC, Safe Schools Coalition BC

BC School Covid Tracker

  • Kathy Marliss, parent, BC School Covid Tracker
  • Andrea Roszmann, parent, BC School Covid Tracker

UBC Covid Tracker

Masks4EastVan

Canadian Aerosol Transmission Coalition, including:

  • Stephane Bilodeau, Eng., Ph.D., Fellow Engineers Canada, Coordinator, Indoor Air Quality Task Force, World Health Network, Lecturer, Bioengineering Department, McGill University, Canadian Aerosol Transmission Coalition
  • Alec Farquhar, retired Occupational Health and Safety Regulator, Canadian Aerosol Transmission Coalition
  • Ziad Fazel, BASc, DipAdmin, P.Eng., Canadian Aerosol Transmission Coalition
  • Laurence Svirchev, MA, BS, CIH, Svirchev OHS Management Systems, Canadian Aerosol Transmission Coalition
  • Dorothy Wigmore, MS, Occupational hygienist, Canadian Aerosol Transmission Coalition

Other Individual signatories:

  • Dr David Berger, Remote Emergency GP, Australia
  • Astrid Brousselle Professor and Director, School of Public Administration, University of Victoria
  • Tracy Casavant, BASc (Chml), MES
  • Damien Contandriopoulos, Professor, School of Nursing, University of Victoria
  • Irene Corman, M.A. educator, Retired Associate Superintendent of Schools
  • Mauricio Drelichman, Associate Professor, University of British Columbia
  • Rob DuMont, Data Insights Analyst
  • Jaclyn Ferreira, Rare Disease and Disability Advocate
  • Dr. David M. Forrest, Infectious diseases and critical care medicine, Nanaimo Regional General Hospital
  • Colin Furness PhD MPH, Infection Control Epidemiologist
  • Dr. Malgorzata Gasperowicz, Developmental Biologist, University of Calgary
  • Lauren Goldman, RN
  • Dr. James Heilman, MD, BC Emergency Physician
  • Amanda Hu, BA, BFA, NCT
  • Dr. Rob James, PhD (Epidemiology)
  • José-Luis Jimenez; Distinguished Prof., Dept. of Chemistry & Biochemistry, CIRES Fellow, University  of Colorado
  • Andrew Longhurst, MA, Health Policy Researcher & PhD Candidate, Department of Geography, Simon Fraser University
  • Steve Morgan, PhD. Professor, School of Population and Public Health, University of British Columbia
  • Dr. Tara Moriarty, Associate Professor, University of Toronto, Faculty of Dentistry, Matrix Dynamics Group, Faculty of Medicine, Department of Laboratory Medicine & Pathobiology
  • M.B. Oliver, CD, P.Eng.
  • Dr. Sarah (Sally) Otto, FRSC, Director, Liber Ero Fellowship Program, University Killam Professor, Department of Zoology, University of British Columbia
  • Kimberly A. Prather, Ph.D. Director, NSF Center for Aerosol Impacts on Chemistry of the Environment, Distinguished Professor, Distinguished Chair in Atmospheric Chemistry, Scripps Institution of Oceanography, University of California, San Diego, La Jolla
  • Dr. Manya Sadouski, Family Physician
  • James Andrew Smith, PhD, P.Eng, Associate Professor, York University
  • Dr. Amy Tan, MSc CCFP (Palliative Care) FCFP

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