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SFU researcher calls on province to close bars ahead of return to school

Last Updated Aug 30, 2020 at 9:55 am PDT

Summary

An SFU professor says BC should consider closing clubs & other places to limit the spread of COVID before school begins

Dr. Caroline Colijn says the province could even consider enacting a two-week lockdown

She says based on the growth of cases bout six per cent of elementary schools would see COVID cases on day one

BURNABY (CityNews) — New research out of SFU suggests if BC wants to reopen schools safely, we need to make a trade by shutting non-essential indoor gathering spaces.

Based on the number of cases B.C. is reporting daily, Simon Fraser University mathematics professor Dr. Caroline Colijn says about six per cent of elementary schools and 30 per cent of high schools would see COVID-19 cases “on day one.”

Colijin adds, for community transmission to level off, closing bars earlier could help.

“Are we really saying it’s more important to have clubs and parties open for the next three weeks than it is to have safe school opening?” she asks.

Colijn is part of a group of Simon Fraser University mathematicians looking at COVID-19 models and projections. The SFU group, whose model has not been peer-reviewed, suggests to keep schools safer, now is the time to shut down other indoor spaces like bars and indoor dining.

“We need to get community transmission down now, the best time would have two weeks ago, the second-best time would have been last week, the third-best time is today to really get those cases,” she says. “If we have to close bars and clubs after 10:00 p.m., even if we have to say ‘no more parties’ even if we have to do another quick two-week complete shutdown. I would say if schools are important and they are … maybe we need that more than we need to go to parties.”

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On Saturday afternoon, a group of teachers and parents rallied in Vancouver, demanding the province rethink its back-to-school plans.

The group called for smaller class sizes and paid sick days for parents and teachers if there is an outbreak.

“People are saying ‘oh well, if parents feel it’s unsafe they can just keep their kids at home,'” Lisa Descary, a Richmond teacher, told CityNews. “Not everyone is so lucky. My mom was a single parent and she would have never had been able to do that.”

On Friday, the Vancouver School Board said it would be creating another option for elementary school students in September. In response to a survey – where more than 21,000 parents responded – the VSB created the “Learn from Home Transition” option, which will allow for a delayed return to the classroom.

The province also announced School start times and lunch breaks will be staggered – to prevent cohorts from mixing together. Masks will be mandatory for staff, middle school and high school students when physical distancing isn’t possible.

Students in B.C. are expected to return to class on Sept. 10.

– With files from Nikitha Martins