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B.C. teachers urged to stay home if showing symptoms from poor air quality amid COVID-19 concerns

Last Updated Sep 14, 2020 at 11:05 am PDT

FILE - Smoky air can be seen blanketing the region in Delta. (Tim James, NEWS 1130 Photo)

Teachers who may be feeling symptoms from poor air quality are being told to stay home and take a sick day

The BC Teachers' Federation says it has concerns about keeping students, staff in rooms without fresh air amid COVID-19

Some schools have said they'll keep windows, doors closed to keep students, staff away from smoky air

VANCOUVER (NEWS 1130) – As concerns mount over student and staff safety amid the COVID-19 pandemic and poor air quality around Metro Vancouver, teachers are being told to forego work if they’re feeling the slightest bit unwell.

This comes as some districts say they’re taking precautions. Some boards say windows and doors at schools should be closed to limit exposure to the smoky air that’s blanketed the region, caused by wildfires burning south of the border.

The Surrey, Vancouver, and Delta school districts are among those who also say students will be able to stay indoors during recess and lunch, if they need to.

Read more: Metro Vancouver schools will remain open as concerns over poor air quality amid COVID-19 mount

However, the BC Teachers’ Federation has concerns about keeping people in rooms without fresh air.

It’s telling teachers to take a sick day if they have any symptoms from either poor air quality or smoke, because of their similarities to symptoms of COVID-19.

“Teachers, if you are feeling ill tomorrow you should book a sick day,” the BCTF says in a Facebook post from Sunday. “That includes symptoms brought on by the wildfire smoke and poor air quality. We should be especially careful because of the (COVID-19) pandemic. Please book a sick day if you have respiratory illness symptoms.

“If you are at work and have a health and safety concern, you must first inform your supervisor (likely your principal) and your local union’s health and safety representative. They will help you.”

Teachers, if you are feeling ill tomorrow you should book a sick day. That includes symptoms brought on by the wildfire…

Posted by BC Teachers' Federation (BCTF) on Sunday, September 13, 2020

The air quality remains poor around much of the Lower Mainland, despite some improvements.

The conditions are so dire that the Greater Victoria Teachers’ Association is calling on the Victoria School District to close schools until air quality returns to “safe levels.”

“Students are returning to full classes today while Victoria’s air quality may be the worst in the world,” a post reads. “In order to mitigate air quality problems, School District 61’s plan to put schools into ‘hold and secure’ is in direct conflict with the (COVID-19) Exposure Control Plan and BCCDC Public Health guidelines for K-12.”

Greater Victoria Teachers’ Association Calls on Victoria School District to Immediately Close Schools until Air Quality…

Posted by Greater Victoria Teachers' Association on Monday, September 14, 2020

Improvements to air quality coming

Meteorologist Russ Lacate says we won’t see much of a noticeable improvement until a little later in the week.

“We simply don’t have the mechanism to get it out of the way during the day today (Monday),” he says. “Although some isolated showers develop late today and tonight and that will provide an assist during the Tuesday.”

In a few days’ time, the smoky, hazy conditions will continue to dissipate with some wet weather in the forecast, he adds.

-With files from Lisa Steacy