Teachers across the province are “deeply concerned” after half a dozen schools in the Lower Mainland announced tests for the more contagious variant of COVID first detected in the UK.
“It is time for decisive action by government and health officials to counter this new threat to the safety of schools,” the B.C. Teachers’ Federation Tweeted on Sunday. “It’s imperative that staff, students, and parents within these #bced communities follow the directions of health officials. In the broader community, we need people to do all they can to limit the potential spread of these variants, so they don’t find their way into our schools.”
Most of the positive tests were in schools in the Surrey School District, with one in the Delta School District as well. However, it’s possible that the UK variant has spread much further than that, given that one of the positive cases dates back to Jan. 26–a three week delay.
“We expect it to double every eight to 10 days, and so for every eight- to 10-day delay there’s potentially twice as many other people who have caught it and not know about it,” a University of British Columbia evolutionary biologist named Sarah Otto told CBC.
The Surrey School District blamed the delay on tests for the variant taking longer than normal COVID testing.
“It’s clear that the existing measures are not enough,” the BCTF said, “schools need to be doing widespread rapid testing when a COVID19 variant shows up in schools. This is not the time to be conservative with testing. Everyone connected to a class with a COVID19 variant exposure should receive a rapid test.”
The teachers’ federation said there also needs to be mandatory mask wearing in specific schools. The province recently tightened its rules on masks, but doesn’t require them to be worn in the classroom or among elementary school students, as Skeena Strong has reported.
Currently the UK variant hasn’t been detected in the Skeena.