A petition seeking to extend the winter break in BC schools due to concerns around COVID-19 has gained support from thousands of people.
The Change.org petition asks Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry, Premier John Horgan, and Health Minister Adrian Dix, to keep schools across the province closed for an additional two weeks, instead of returning to in-class learning on January 4.
The petition sites rising COVID-19 cases in the province, as well as the presence of the new virus variant, as causes for concern. Since being launched on December 28, the petition has gained over 39,000 signatures.
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“To be sure that it is safe for students and staff to return. We ask that Dr. Bonnie Henry extend the winter break for all BC students and make a new plan on how to safely return to school,” the petition reads.
Several signatories have included their rationale for supporting the petition.
On December 23, Dr. Henry said that less than 1% of all school-aged children in BC have tested positive for COVID-19.
“Most school-aged children who have symptoms don’t have COVID-19 and that remains the same as we have seen throughout the pandemic,” Henry told a press conference.
“School-aged children in the general population represent about 12% of all cases since the beginning of the pandemic.”
In a December 31 update, Henry said preparations have been made to ensure students and staff “can go back to school safely” on January 4.
“In terms of schools, I mentioned a few weeks ago in November, we pulled together a school task force to learn from what we have been through in the last few weeks, and to pull things together and to reestablish that relationship, and the communications and the tools we need to restart safely in the new year,” she said.
As for the COVID-19 UK variant and concern of it spreading in schools, Henry said that although the situation in the UK has been “extremely stressful” BC is “thankfully not in that position.”
“We are watching very carefully for this variant here but we have not yet seen a lot of spread in particular.”
Although the UK variant has been found in BC, health officials have said there is no evidence to suggest that it causes more severe illness or that approved vaccines will be any less effective against it.
To date, there have been 51,990 COVID-19 cases and 901 virus-related deaths in BC.