The following report is out tonight:
“Garibaldi Secondary in Maple Ridge SD#42 exposure from Jan 18th and 19th has confirmed that the individual confirmed to have Covid who attended the school on January 18th and 19th is a close contact to a person in the community who has a variant type of Covid-19 virus that may spread more easily.”
Apparently, all members of the class have been scheduled for a rapid test tomorrow!
Reality is upon us! The variant we all feared now threatens our schools. These are schools where the Government has refused to supply the resources to enable social distancing. These are the schools where the PHO has refused to mandate masks. These are the schools where the ventilation is archaic and inadequate, and these are the schools that both the Government and the PHO incorrectly identify as safe.
Suddenly, those rapid tests that the PHO had refused to deploy to LTC homes and to schools are now useful. We are again reacting rather than having been proactive. When will we realize that BC is not the shining example for dealing with Covid and that the Government and the PHO are failing us particularly in the schools?
Let us count the ways we are being let down.
The Government has failed in the following:
1)Travel: Instead of sarcastic comments about Manitoba, the Premier should be following their example by instituting an interprovincial travel policy that discourages anyone wanting to enter this province. One only needs to look at the current Covid hotspot of Whistler to see how much out of province travel is occurring. We need more appropriate inter-provincial travel policies.
2) Governing: This week the PHO said there should have been more attention to the pandemic in the Fall, but the Government had called an election. This is the first time there has been an admittance the Government’s thirst for power hampered the fight against the virus and in all probability furthered the spread. Fighting this virus must be priority number one!
3) LTC Report: The Government kept the LTC report under wraps. The Government received this scathing report before the election and said nothing for three months. How many seniors did we lose because of this callous approach to an already disastrous situation in our province? This Government has much to answer for in the way they have handled the LTC home file and they need to give this file both attention and resources as we move forward.
4) School safety: The Government has failed to provide the resources to enable social distancing in schools. No one wants schools closed, they just want them to be safe. Social distancing is essential to making them safe and this occurred in May and June. However, in September the Government forced schools to open without providing either the resources or the flexibility to enable social distancing. There are better models that would not be outrageously expensive including hybrid models at appropriate grades. The Government provided neither putting every student and staff at risk of long-term health issues. The Government needs to admit schools are critical vectors in the spread of the virus and change their approach to how social distancing occurs in schools.
The PHO has failed in the following:
a) Mask mandate: The PHO has stubbornly and inexplicably refused to mandate masks in school while at the same time mandating them in every other workplace and every public building. This is unforgiveable and needs to change. She needs to mandate masks in schools and if she does not then local Boards should!
b) Rapid testing: The PHO has refused to deploy rapid testing. These tests should not be sitting in storage and should have been deployed to both LTC homes and schools the moment they arrived in the province. If the report tonight is right, the arrival of the variant so close to schools has spurred the PHO into using the rapid testing technology. The PHO needs to stop reacting and proactively attack this virus. We need to abandon the “we have to live with this virus” philosophy and do as other countries have and seek to get to Covid zero
c) Communication: The PHO does not released data in a timely fashion and has avoided providing data that would allow parents to make more informed decisions. The communication from this office can only be described as totally inadequate and at times misleading. As Adam Longhurst pointed out on his Twitter feedback: “no wonder British Columbians are frustrated. Messaging is confused, mixed, inaccurate. 30-40% of +cases linked to workplaces, but it's not workplace spread! Whistler is a hotspot, but ski resorts not the source! Variants aren't linked to travel, but they aren't spreading!” Current communications need to stop sending mixed signals and it is long overdue to provide access to the Covid app that most provinces are using.
d) Listen and heed: The PHO forced a cohort model on schools that limited their own ability to timetable a school in a much safer manner and falsely claimed this ‘layer of protection” made schools safer. The imposition of external rules without consultation on those who understand how schools function needs to end. Teachers have been trying to provide sound suggestions on how to make schools safe, but it is falling upon deaf ears. The PHO needs to listen to and pay heed to the sound advice of those who work in the classrooms. It is their heath that we risk every single day, and we continue to abandon them!
We are at a critical point in our fight against this virus. When it comes to schools these are the current statistics:
i) # of school exposure events: 2532
ii) # of schools affected: 858
iii) # of schools with multiple exposures: 478
iv) Percentage of schools with exposure events: 44.2
AND NOW WE HAVE THE VARIANT AT OUR SCHOOLS’ DOORSTEP!
What is it going to take for the Government and the PHO to take decisive action intended to stop the carnage? People are dying at an unacceptable rate and our case numbers have leveled at an unacceptable average of 400 per day. Simple but profound changes suggested above will begin the change from “we must learn to live with this virus” to “we are going to direct our efforts to reaching Covid zero!”
Reality is upon us! A pro-active answer is called for now. particularly in our schools!!
Doug Player, January 31,2021.