As British Columbia continues to trend towards massive growth in coronavirus cases, people in the province need to have some “tough talk” about the fact that reopening schools relies on low spread.
In an interview with The West Block’s Mercedes Stephenson, B.C. Education Minister Rob Fleming said people need to realize that the pandemic is not over and moving towards restarting key sectors in society requires everyone to do their part to keep the infection spread as low as possible.
“I don’t want to castigate one generation … but you’ve heard some admonishments, some stern words,” he said, pointing to rising infection rates among young adults aged 20 to 29.
“The key to opening schools safely here in B.C. and everywhere else in the country is having a very low transmission rate.”
Data presented by B.C. public health authorities last week showed the province is on track to exceed the number of cases it saw during the peak early days of the pandemic if behaviours don’t change.
Modelling is forecasting roughly 75 new cases each day all the way into September and officials there say indoor private parties continue to be the biggest concern for how the virus is spreading.
“There’s some people out there who are trying to skirt the rules. They’re trying to find ways to get around things and hide things and we are trying to find them,” Dr. Bonnie Henry, the province’s top health official, said last week.
“We are appealing to those people who know these are happening. Where we know about them, they are being shut down.”
Federal officials also warned last week that a spike in cases across the country could overwhelm health care systems this fall if Canadians are not careful.
Having more people sick than can receive the treatment they need means more deaths.
Fleming said he spoke with his counterparts from the other provinces on Thursday and all of them are putting the focus on safety as they work to reopen schools, but that adjustments will be needed.
“Some kids coming back to school in September will have been out of school for six months,” he said, noting educators are going to need to take some time to think carefully about how to help students understand why things have changed so much.
The province will be using the first week of school reopening for what Fleming called an “orientation of what the new normal looks like in schools.”