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B.C.'s top doctor insists closing schools in COVID hot zones can lead to rising cases

Last Updated Apr 6, 2021 at 6:18 pm PDT

FILE: A physical distancing sign is seen during a media tour of Hastings Elementary school in Vancouver on September 2, 2020. Students across British Columbia are getting ready for COVID-19 orientation sessions this week amid a flurry of new protocols aimed at reopening schools while the pandemic wears on. Education Minister Rob Fleming has said districts are expecting 85 to 90 per cent of students to attend school in person, but some parents and students say they're frustrated by the lack of remote learning options, large class sizes and inconsistent messaging when it comes to physical distancing. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward

B.C.'s top doctor is again rejecting calls to close schools where COVID-19 transmission rates are high

Dr. Bonnie Henry says she's not ready to follow Ontario's lead

She insists case numbers go up when children are allowed to stay home

VICTORIA (NEWS 1130) — B.C.’s Provincial Health Officer says she has no plans to follow Ontario’s lead by shutting down schools in COVID-19 hot zones.

Despite recording more than a thousand more cases and three deaths since the province’s COVID-19 update Monday, Dr. Bonnie Henry insists schools are still safe.

RELATED: B.C. again records more than 1,000 COVID cases

She admits the province is about a month behind Ontario’s rampant spread of variants, but she says closing schools — at least across the Lower Mainland — is not a good idea.

“Cases go up when children are not in school and that’s a downside impact on families. So we need to find that way of safely keeping children in schools so that we can protect our communities — anin d that is something that we take very seriously — that we’ve put a focus on,” she says.

All but one of the 207 variant cases recorded Tuesday have been in the Vancouver Coastal Health region, with the other being in Fraser Health.

However, numerous exposures have been linked to schools in those areas in recent days.

The rampant spread of variants in Ontario has led to closures in urban areas.

Henry says the focus remains on making sure classrooms are safe, especially in Surrey, which consistently has the highest transmission rate.

“We’ve immunized in those schools, as well, so these are things that we are taking now to mitigate the risks that we know are in our communities, and we’re focusing on the communities with the highest risks.”

The top doctor is also reminding worried staff and parents that transmissions in schools are a reflection of the community.

“This is something we are all dealing with. It’s not simple to put bubble wrap around everybody and prevent transmission. We all have a place and a role to play in stopping it … we need to stop this upstream in the community, and we all play a part in that.”

Of the 328 patients hospitalized as of Tuesday, 96 are in critical care. The last time that many people were in the ICU was December 15.

RELATED: Toronto moving all schools to online learning

As of Wednesday, Toronto elementary and secondary schools will be closed for in-person learning as all students and staff will shift to online learning.

Toronto Public Health (TPH) issued a Section 22 order and made the announcement on Tuesday, one day after Peel Public Health recommended schools be closed for in-person learning due to COVID-19 concerns.


– With files from Lucas Casaletto