With the Omicron variant quickly spreading throughout the province, improved COVID-19 safety measures are becoming more important. According to a BCTF update to Local Presidents, the Education Ministry’s COVID-19 Steering Committee met with the BCTF right before Christmas and reported that:
- Omicron is more transmissible than earlier variants of COVID-19.
- Omicron in transmitted in the same way as other variants (see below for how COVID-19 spreads).
- Much transmission continues to be in unstructured social interactions (such as in homes).
In response to this update, the BCTF made several requests to help ensure that schools are safe during this phase of the pandemic, which included the following:
- N95 masks should be provided at schools (the BCTF notes that quality and fit are more important now, especially given the recent recommendations of Dr. Tam, Canada’s chief public health officer, on the need for higher quality masks in workplaces – see next page for details on her recent comments).
- Schools should be supported in enforcement of mask-wearing. Mask-wearing is more important now.
- Schools and classrooms should be provided with mitigation measures in buildings without adequate filters (such as portable HEPA filters in every classroom or other ways to improve ventilation).
- Students and staff should be provided access to rapid testing.
- Keeping vaccination clinics open and speeding up booster shots should be prioritized (additional personal to make this happen should be provided). Note: This is especially important in Northern BC.
| How COVID-19 Spreads: COVID-19 Is Airborne |
According to the government of Canada, “The virus that causes COVID-19 spreads from an infected person to others through respiratory droplets and aerosols [smaller droplets] when an infected person breathes, coughs, sneezes, sings, shouts, or talks. The droplets vary in size, from large droplets that fall to the ground rapidly (within seconds or minutes) near the infected person, to smaller droplets, sometimes called aerosols, which linger in the air, especially in indoor spaces. The relative infectiousness of droplets of different sizes is not clear. Infectious droplets or aerosols may come into direct contact with the mucous membranes of another person’s nose, mouth or eyes, or they may be inhaled into their nose, mouth, airways and lungs. The virus may also spread when a person touches another person (i.e., a handshake) or a surface or an object (also referred to as a fomite) that has the virus on it, and then touches their mouth, nose or eyes with unwashed hands” (Government of Canada, https://bit.ly/3enBUMi, last updated Dec. 14, 2021).