Okanagan teachers feel lives ‘expendable’ as B.C. mask mandate excludes classrooms: union

Okanagan teachers feel lives ‘expendable’ as B.C. mask mandate excludes classrooms: union

The union representing teachers in Penticton, B.C., said educators are “disappointed” and baffled as to why B.C.’s sweeping new COVID-19 mask directive won’t apply to school classrooms.

“It’s difficult to explain, not just to teachers but even to children, why they are wandering into a grocery store with their parents and they put on a mask, yet when they’re at school, surrounded by sometimes more people in a close, confined space, they don’t need to wear a mask,” said Kevin Epp, president of the Okanagan Skaha Teachers’ Union.

Read more: No mandatory masks in B.C. schools despite sweeping new COVID-19 orders

Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry unveiled several new orders on Thursday, including mandatory masks in all public spaces and retail environments, to try to curb the spread of COVID-19 as case counts soar in Metro Vancouver, putting a strain on health care resources.

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However, school classrooms are not included in the mask-wearing mandate, as Dr. Henry said a school setting differed from a public space.

“Schools are not public, open spaces — you cannot go walk into a school,” she said.

#BCed teachers shouldn’t have less protection than other workers. #BCpoli and the PHO should be doing more. But in the absence of their assistance, help each other. Use this poster to increase mask use in schools.

Colour: https://t.co/vGb2FQHtlb

B&W: https://t.co/iTUhAePwc4 pic.twitter.com/kMMYNRHerF

— BCTF (@bctf) November 22, 2020

Epp begged to differ.

He said parents, community members, and outside contractors often enter schools.…

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