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LETTER: School board COVID-19 policy unfair

From reader David Paetkau

As I write this, Vietnam and British Columbia are each reporting 39 cases of COVID-19 — although the rate of infection in Vietnam is 20 times lower, because the population is 20 times larger. Travelers from China are thought to have introduced the virus to B.C., while travelers from Britain and the U.S. are responsible for all but one of the current cases in Vietnam.

My elder daughter, who spent most of the winter hitchhiking in China, is in Vietnam. This week she has been kicked out of a farmers’ market and had street vendors simply pull up their masks and turn their back as she approached, not because she had been in China, but because she is Caucasian, and thus suspected of being infected.

My younger daughter just landed in Hanoi, on her way to visit her sister over the school break. Last week SD8 circulated a policy stating that she would be barred from school for the two weeks following her return, not because she had visited a country that was struggling with the virus, but because she had visited a country that is Asian: the school policy reads that quarantine applies to students who travel to “Asia or other fast-growing outbreak countries (sic).”

South of the border Donald Trump gave a speech suggesting that COVID-19 proves the need for a wall between the U.S. (1,037 cases at last report, and raging upwards) and Mexico (eight cases at last count).

Hey folks, hard times are when we reach down inside and find the strength of character to support one another, and when we take the time to differentiate fact from rumour. They are not the times when we need school boards to release policies that are devoid of objective or quantitative criteria, but dripping with latent racism. We need to do better than this, now more than ever.

David Paetkau