Parents concerned with COVID-19 safety measures in B.C. schools are organizing protests around the province on Monday.
The “Red for BCEd” event will see parents and students gather at the headquarters of B.C.’s five health authorities for a socially-distanced vehicle parade.
Participants are being asked to dress or decorate their vehicles in red and not to exit their vehicles.
“Our biggest issue is the lack of safety measures in schools for all the staff and students,” parent Miranda Tracy told Global News.
“We keep being told we have all these safety measures but yet they’ve never been stated. We have handwashing, which isn’t enough for an aerosol spread virus, and we have cohorts, which aren’t enough.”
Tracy wants to see mandatory masks, less classroom density and better ventilation in classrooms.
The event is being organized through the B.C. Sick Out Facebook group, an initiative that was created in December asking parents to keep their kids home in a day of protest and in support of teachers.
“Children all across Canada have more safety measures than those in B.C. So we’re asking why are BC Students being treated as less?” Tracy said.
“If you’re not testing, you can’t say that our schools are safe. They keep saying they are, but they’re not doing anything to prove it. All of the other jurisdictions across Canada prove it. They’re doing all the right things that we’re supposed to be doing and show those stats. We don’t have those stats.”
Ontario, in contrast to B.C., provides a daily update on number of school related cases, broken down by school and whether the cases involve staff or students.
It also runs a testing program to screen students for asymptomatic cases.
Tracy also expressed frustration with what she called miscommunication with districts about whether they are allowed to go above and beyond the province’s safety guidelines.
The largest demonstration is expected to take place at the Fraser Health office, in the wake of multiple cases of COVID-19 variants of concern cropping up in Surrey schools in recent weeks.
Teachers have been calling for more stringent safety protocols in schools since the summer but the province has resisted making major changes. In early February, it made its most significant change, requiring mandatory masks in all indoor areas of middle and high schools.
Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie has consistently maintained that schools remain a safe environment and that the province’s “layers of protection” — including staggered start and break times, partial mask mandates and increased hand hygiene — are working.
While there have been hundreds of exposures in school settings, Henry says actual incidences of transmission remain “rare.”
The province has provided little data on COVID-19 in schools.
The most recent provincial update on school transmission came in the province’s Dec. 23 modelling presentation. It showed that less than 10 per cent of exposures in Vancouver Coastal Health schools resulted in transmission, while nearly 13 per cent of exposures in Fraser Health were possible transmission events.
The BC Centre for Disease Control’s most recent situation report shows that kids under 10 represent just four per cent of all cases so far, far lower than the nine per cent of B.C.’s population they represent.
Youth aged 10-19, who make up 10 per cent of the population, accounted for 10 per cent of B.C.’s total cases.
That same report did find the highest rates of test positivity in the week up to Feb. 20 was among youth aged 15-19 (10.4 per cent positivity) and youth aged 10-14 (9.2 per cent positivity).
A joint study between BC Children’s Hospital, Vancouver Coastal Health and the Vancouver School Board is currently underway, aiming to better understand how much transmission has actually happened in schools.