As we prepare to start a new school year in a new Coronavirus world, we should put our trust in provincial leaders and science.
By Nina Stofati
On 29 July 2020, BC’s Education Minister Rob Flemming and BC’s Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry announced the full reopening of schools for the 2020-2021 school year. Despite constant reassurance and scientific evidence from the Minister, as well as other BC Health Officials, that the risk of contamination and transmission remains incredibly low among children, there are still many parents, educators, and even students who have expressed a deep “concern” over the province’s restart plan. The most controversial topic is the issue of whether or not masks should be enforced in all BC schools, and if schools should reopen at all.
British Columbians have insisted on keeping schools closed unless the province implements obligatory mask wearing for all staff, students and teachers at all times. Although this may sound like a good idea on paper, Dr. Bonnie Henry has stated that this could be more problematic for children. The Provincial Health Officer fears that students (especially younger ones) will struggle to keep a mask on for seven hours without touching their face, eyes or nose. It could be argued that the most rational approach to the “mask dilemma” would be to only enforce it in crowded areas where there is little to no ventilation, such as exam settings, school masses, and possibly the hallways; they should be a choice for students otherwise.
Statistically speaking, the risk of infection among children and their ability to actually spread the virus to adults remains especially low. CTV News has stated that the number of adolescents below the age of 20 that managed to get infected with COVID-19 in Canada stands at 7,888 as of 14 July 2020. Of those cases, only one of them has turned fatal. However, the only information that was provided is that the patient was female. It is unknown whether or not she had underlying medical conditions, another disease, a compromised immune system, or if COVID-19 was even the cause of her death. This leaves the death rate at 0.013% for the overall percentage of fatal COVID-19 cases among young people as of 14 July 2020.
With the given research and evidence provided to us by BC Health Officials and doctors all across the country, there is clearly no reason for this virus to have people completely put their lives on pause. Of course, everyone should continue to practice strict health and safety measures in order to contain the already minuscule amount of infections. However, these are very simple things that all of us should’ve already been doing well before this pandemic: washing our hands, coughing or sneezing into our elbow, and not coming to school or work when we are sick! It is quite evident that so far, our nation and province have done a good job of practising these basic health and safety precautions based on the number of cases. As of the 21st of August 2020, the national number of COVID-19 cases stands at 124,372, and in British Columbia, we have just reached over 5,000 positive cases.
While there has been a recent spike in BC, keep in mind that the percentage of the population here that was infected by the virus, for now, stands at a mere 0.099%; and in all of Canada, 0.33% (which, of course, could change within the next couple of months if a second wave materializes). The question is: did Canada perform well due to the shutdown of the economy, or was it a mistake to affect so many people’s livelihoods now that we know the low rates of infection?
Citizens should not have to put their lives on hold due to COVID-19. Furthermore, it is crucial for schools, as well as other essential work-places that keep Canada’s economy running, to remain open. If schools stay up and running (full-time) for the remainder of the academic year, parents who have not had the option to work from home can finally get back to their jobs, and Canada can start to normalize. People must also keep in mind that certain families need their children to go to school in order for them to have a meal every day or for students with special needs to get support from the school. Taking everything into consideration, it is quite evident that the emotional and educational ramifications of keeping schools closed are grave, a safe return will be beneficial for all.
Canada and the rest of the world have had nearly seven months to observe the evolution of this virus and for now, the severity and lethality of COVID-19 have proven to remain quite low. With all the given information as well as scientific evidence from health officials all across the nation and globe, one could conclude that the steps BC has taken to reopen schools and the rest of the province is safe and rational, based on science.