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B.C.’s top doctor doesn’t ‘foresee a situation’ where the school system shuts down again

Click to play video 'Dr. Henry lays out rules for B.C. school COVID-19 outbreaks' Dr. Henry lays out rules for B.C. school COVID-19 outbreaks
B.C. provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry says the province is looking at different responses to possible COVID-19 transmissions.

British Columbia provincial health office Dr. Bonnie Henry says she does not foresee a situation where the province shuts schools down as was done in March.

The province’s top doctor says there could be situations where COVID-19 forces some students to isolate or potentially leads to a school being closed.

But according to Henry the province’s back to school plan is designed to prevent a full shut down even with positives cases of the virus going up.

Click to play video 'Day one of back-to-school 2020' Day one of back-to-school 2020
Day one of back-to-school 2020

“I do not foresee a situation where the system would have to close down. That would mean that we were in dire straits in many other aspects of our community. And that’s what we are trying to absolutely avoid,” Henry said.

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“There are a couple scenarios where we may see schools or groups of people having to self-isolate or close. It will depend on the investigation.”

Most students across the province returned to school on Thursday or will head back on Friday. The province has opted for a “learning cohort” model to limit contacts, but physical distancing will not be required within learning groups.

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Anyone in the school system is asked to avoid contact and wear a mask in high traffic areas like hallways and cafeterias.

Public health teams have been assigned to support schools and if a communicable disease arises that can spread to others, the school community will be alerted, said Henry.

If there’s the potential that risk goes beyond the school, then the public will also be notified, Henry added.

Click to play video 'Dr. Henry lays out rules for B.C. school COVID-19 outbreaks' Dr. Henry lays out rules for B.C. school COVID-19 outbreaks
Dr. Henry lays out rules for B.C. school COVID-19 outbreaks

“These are protocols that we have used in the past and we have updated them and made sure we are ready to support every school, every school community, and every community in B.C. as we go through this pandemic school year,” Henry said.

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“We know that there is likely both adults and children right now, because we have transmission in our community, who may have the virus, and may develop the symptoms and become sick when they are attending school, or at home before they go into school.”

Parents are required to ask their children every day before school how they are feeling. No one should go into a B.C. school who is feeling sick or showing COVID-19 symptoms.

Click to play video 'Students across B.C. head back-to-school for in-class learning' Students across B.C. head back-to-school for in-class learning
Students across B.C. head back-to-school for in-class learning

Situations where someone with COVID-19 does attend a school, but there is no on-site transmission, or no exposures to an infectious person, will not be considered outbreaks.

“We will, and local health officers will be working with every school so that every school family, school community, is aware that there are cases, that there may be a case in their school. It may not require anybody else to stay home,” Henry said.

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One situation where a school could be shut down is if there was multiple exposures or transmission between adults in a school setting, and there wasn’t sufficient staff left to safely operate the school.

“We have seen that happen with influenza outbreaks,” Henry said.

“We have seen that happen in other parts of the world where people schools have reopened, where teachers are getting together … where they can transmit the virus between each other and then others would be in an exposed situation, so they would have to be home and quarantined.

“If that happens, I could see potentially a school having to close.”