Alberta announced Tuesday (Aug. 4) that masks would be required in schools when they reopen in the fall, even as B.C. schools are set to open with no such mandate.
British Columbia’s closest neighbour is mandating masks for students starting in Grade 4 and for all school staff. Students will be required to wear them in all shared and common space, including hallways and on buses.
Students and staff in all schools across Alberta will receive two reusable masks from the provincial government, leading to a total of 1.6 million masks being distributed to 740,000 students and 90,000 staff. Single-use masks will also be made available.
Students younger than Grade 4 and those who cannot wear one for medical reasons will not be required to wear masks.
“Since cancelling in-person classes in March and developing our school re-entry plan, we have been clear that we would continue to adapt our guidelines as necessary based on current medical advice,” said Education Minister Adriana LaGrange . “These new safety measures will help prevent the spread of COVID-19 in our schools, and we will continue to work with our school authorities to ensure they are equipped for a successful start to the school year.”
Alberta unveiled a plan to return to “near-normal daily operations” on July 21, although authorities must remain ready to move between three scenarios outline in the school re-entry plan. The province currently has more than 10,800 cases, with 196 deaths and 1,386 cases currently active. B.C. has recorded 3,641 total cases, with 195 deaths and 278 cases currently active.
B.C. students are also set to return to classrooms in September, divided into “learning groups” of 60 to 120 students to aid in contact tracing. Students and staff will have access to masks, but they will remain optional.
However, in a recent poll, 62 per cent of Canadians think that children should be required to wear masks, either all the time at school, on school buses, or only outside of class during recess, lunch, and on school buses).
Speaking at a press conference Tuesday afternoon, provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry said she was “confident” that B.C’s return-to-school plan would keep children safe.
Henry said she sees “a place” for masks in schools, particularly when adults cannot keep two metres distance from each other, but that the province has “no intention” in making masks mandatory for students.
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