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Could B.C. schools break early for winter? Top doctor considers possibility

Last Updated Nov 17, 2020 at 9:01 am PDT

FILE - A woman and two children walk along the Vancouver Seawall on Jan. 15, 2020. (Lasia Kretzel, NEWS 1130 photo)

Dr. Bonnie Henry says she's not ruling out the possibility of closing schools early for winter break

As COVID-19 cases continue to rise in B.C., Henry says there are factors to consider when talking about winter break

B.C.'s top doctor says there are concerns that COVID-19 cases could rise after holiday gatherings

VANCOUVER (NEWS 1130) – As COVID-19 cases rise across the province, and the number of exposure notices in schools creeps up, B.C.’s top doctor admits she’s looking at possibly closing schools early for the winter break.

But Dr. Bonnie Henry notes there are a number of factors to consider before making such a move.

“Some of the downsides are that there are many essential workers in our community, and finding places for children to be, safely, during the day needs to be considered,” Henry says. “We know that older children will, naturally, congregate in other settings. So how do we make sure that those aren’t more risky?”

Right now, four schools across the Lower Mainland are closed. Surrey’s Cambridge Elementary is the only one to be shut down by Fraser Health because of a COVID-19 outbreak.

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Others are experiencing shortages because of too many exposures linked to staff.

“We also know that people want to spend time together over holiday seasons, and that can spill over into outbreaks into community settings afterwards. So there are many different things we’re considering,” Henry adds.

“We need to bend our curve back down. We need to ensure that we’re doing everything we can in the community so that we can have our in-classroom schooling going for children across the province, across the country.”

On Monday, the province published an op-ed from Henry about masks and COVID-19. It came amid a continued push by some to have a mask policy implemented at schools and other public spaces across B.C.

“Despite how it might appear when we watch the news or go on social media, research shows that most of us in B.C. are doing the right things most of the time,” Henry’s piece reads.

“Ordering universal mask use in all situations creates unnecessary challenges with enforcement and stigmatization. We need only look at the COVID-19 transmission rates in other jurisdictions that have tried using such orders to see what little benefit these orders by themselves have served. We also know that when orders and fines are in place, it is racialized people and those living in poverty or homeless who are most often targeted.”