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Teachers feel unsafe; new plan needed

I have become increasingly concerned to enter my worksite on a daily basis.

Teachers feel unsafe; new plan needed

As a teacher of early primary-aged children in British Columbia, I have become increasingly concerned to enter my worksite on a daily basis.

Right now B.C. has the same plan to fight this virus as Ontario and Alberta. Both of those provinces, like B.C., are faced with a third wave of the virus. Both Ontario and Alberta, like B.C., have yet to vaccinate teachers and school staff.

The other day on the news I listened to an Ontario doctor being interviewed — he reported that the single largest group of people now being admitted into Ontario hospitals and the ICU are essential workers, many of them teachers. Teachers who are unvaccinated. It has also recently been reported that in Alberta the second largest COVID-19 case rates are within the five to 19 year age group. And now the P.1 variant, reported to be two and a half times more contagious and one and a half times more likely to send those who become infected into hospital and ICU beds, has hit B.C…. with the highest case count in the world outside of Brazil.

So what are we learning? We know that we still have the same plan that we had during the first wave, then the second and now the third wave. We know case numbers have become higher — now reaching over 1,000 a day. We know that recently there was a 60 per cent increase in COVID-19 cases on Vancouver Island for the 20 to 39 age group. An age group that most of the parents of the students I teach belong to. We know that repeating the same message for 62 weeks in a row to wash your hands, wear a mask and maintain social distancing has not eradicated the spread, or slowed it down, or even prevented it from actually becoming worse since the start of the pandemic. But it has certainly caused many to tune out.

Does anyone else think maybe we should change our plan? That maybe the plan isn’t working after all? That maybe we are on our way to a failing grade?

I have to admit that as a teacher, this has been one of the better, more supportive governments in a long time, and I can only imagine the pressures that Dr. Bonnie Henry and her team face on a daily basis.

Other countries are doing far better than us with their plans — New Zealand and Australia for instance. In fact, other regions within Canada are doing a lot better than us — such as the Maritimes. Why don’t we sit up and focus our attention a little better and see if we can learn a lesson from them.

Ask any teacher today and they will tell you that they are literally being made to risk their health or even their life to teach in poorly ventilated, over-crowded classrooms of unmasked (K – 3) children, while also being unvaccinated themselves. It seems like the best advice we are receiving is to just cross your fingers and hang in there — in other words, continue to be “virus fodder”.

Don’t get me wrong, I have no desire to go through another lockdown like last spring, when things weren’t even as bad, but maybe we should consider far more drastic measures again, at least until teachers and other essential workers can get vaccinated. Maybe a new plan might be worth working on in hopes of a better grade this time around.

Chris Castellarin

Duncan

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