COVID-19 FAQ

Duty to accommodate

Members with a medical condition may be entitled to an accommodation. Depending on the circumstances, the School District may be required to consider alternative working arrangements. Those arrangements will be tailored to the individual circumstances, and might include modified work schedules, changes to the working environment, the provision of additional PPE, or working from home arrangements.

The onus is on the member and the union to prove that the member has a medical condition that requires accommodation. That means that the member will need to get at least a written doctor’s note supporting their request.

If members need a medical accommodation, they should make an appointment with their physician immediately to discuss their circumstances.  Members should provide their doctor with as much information as possible about the specific job, and the plan for returning to work so that the doctor can give an informed opinion about whether the workplace is safe for them, and what accommodations might be needed.

Do not leave these issues until September! Members in this situation should schedule an appointment with their doctor right away. Contact your Local for assistance if needed.

Unless they are granted a leave of absence such as a medical leave, school district employees must attend work or risk the possibility of discipline. It is not up to individual members to decide whether or not they are comfortable returning to work. Anyone who has specific circumstances that pose problems for their return to work should raise those issues with their Local and the district well in advance of September.

Existing sick leave benefits and other terms in the collective agreements apply. This means that members should have access to sick leave if they are unable to work due to a health issue. It also means that they may be required to provide medical documentation to support their request for sick leave. However, we recognize that for many members, existing sick pay may not be enough. We have flagged this with government and will continue to push for improvements to sick leave benefits so that members can be sure that they will not be without pay if they cannot work because of COVID-19.

In some cases, members may be entitled to an accommodation. If a member has a documented medical issue, the employer is required to consider alterations to the workplace including adjusted schedules, additional PPE, working from home, or other modifications to the workplace so that the member can continue to work safely. These cases are all unique and will depend on the circumstances. That said, members will be required to provide medical documentation of their condition and restrictions.

In some cases, the employer may be required to accommodate you based on “family status” as described in the Human Rights Code. These cases are rare, and typically only arise where the employee is legally required to care for someone, such as a child. Family status accommodation typically does not apply where the vulnerable person is a parent or other adult family member. Whatever the case, you will need to get a recommendation from a doctor about what is safe and appropriate for you and your family member. If the doctor recommends that you not attend the workplace, you may need a leave of absence or to seek an accommodation. If this circumstance applies to you, you should speak to your union representative immediately to get assistance. You should also schedule an appointment with a doctor to discuss your circumstances and get advice.

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Learning groups (cohorts)

A learning group (cohort) is an extra layer of protection that provides an opportunity for children to interact in school. This recommendation of the PHO increases the ability to better track if there is a COVID outbreak. Learning groups are limited to a maximum 60 students and staff in elementary and middle schools and 120 students and staff in high schools.

Support staff and teachers are included in the learning group numbers. They can leave the cohort as long as they are practising physical distancing.

No. Your household bubble is made up of the people closest to you that you can hug, and you don’t have to practice physical distancing with them. The learning group does not negate physical distancing. We know we can’t always maintain physical distancing at all times in schools and learning groups make sure that risk periods are small and only with a limited number of students.

Learning groups are recommended by the PHO as a way to reduce the number of interactions between students and staff, and to limit potential exposure.

UPDATED AUGUST 17, 2020

Parents and caregivers must assess their child daily and if a child has any symptoms, they must not take the bus to school.

Students should clean their hands before they leave home to take the bus, when they leave school prior to taking the bus, and when they get home.

Middle and secondary students are required to wear non-medical masks when they are on the bus. Non-medical masks are not recommended for elementary school students.

If space is available, students should each have their own seat (unless sharing with a member of their household) and sit separated side to side and front to back.

There may be slight variations to the above by individual school districts, but PHO recommendations must be followed by all districts.

(See pages 12 and 13 of the updated health and safety guidelines for K-12 settings.)

UPDATED AUGUST 17, 2020

Staff outside of a learning group must practice physical distancing when interacting with the learning group.

In situations where staff outside a learning group cannot practice physical distancing, other measures must be explored, such as reconfiguring rooms, securing an alternate space to allow for physical distancing, installing a physical barrier made of transparent material, or providing virtual services where possible.

When staff are interacting with people outside of their learning group—or are in a situation where physical distancing cannot be maintained and none of the strategies outlined above are viable options—staff are required to wear a non-medical mask, a face covering or a face shield (in which case a non-medical mask should be worn in addition to the face shield).

(See page 7 of the updated health and safety guidelines for K-12 settings.)

A learning group is a group of students and staff who remain together throughout the school quarter, semester or year and who primarily interact with each other.

Within a learning group, K-12 students and staff do not need to maintain physical distancing. All staff must still make efforts to minimize physical contact within learning groups.

Outside of their own learning group, middle and secondary students and all K-12 staff need to practice physical distancing of two metres, and other safety protocols like frequent hand washing and covering coughs. Most importantly, anyone who feels unwell must stay home.

Extracurricular activities will likely involve students interacting outside of their learning groups and appropriate physical distancing is required in those circumstances.

As stated in the BCCDC guidelines, outside of a learning group, all K-12 staff as well as middle and secondary students, need to practice physical distancing of two metres, and implement other safety protocols like frequent hand hygiene as identified by the PHO and BC Centre of Disease Control. Staff from outside of the learning group must practice physical distancing at all times in all interactions at work.

Learning groups and physical distancing are complementary strategies to reduce the spread of COVID-19. By organizing students and staff into learning groups, the number of different interactions and potential exposure is reduced, and contact tracing is better supported if there is a confirmed case of COVID-19 in a school community.

Within learning groups, minimizing physical contact is the rule. Those outside of a learning group must practice physical distancing when interacting with a learning group. If a two-metre distance can be maintained between people from different learning groups, two classes from different learning groups can be in the same space at the same time.

Staff outside of a learning group must practice physical distancing when interacting with the learning group. Where physical distancing is not possible, other measures must be explored, such as reconfiguring rooms, securing an alternate space to allow for physical distancing, installing a physical barrier made of transparent materials, or providing virtual services where possible.

(See pages 5, 6 and 7 of the updated “Provincial COVID-19 Health & Safety Guidelines for K-12 Settings.”)

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Health and safety

All districts must adhere to the same safety guidelines as set out by the Provincial Health Officer, Dr. Bonnie Henry. Implementation may vary slightly to district to district as they meet their individual needs.

Please bring your safety concerns to your site health and safety committee.

The PHO, in collaboration with health authorities, will oversee all outbreaks as they have been doing. Their response will vary depending on how the person contracted COVID-19. The public health team will do contact tracing and the PHO will give direction on what response is needed. This could range from isolation to quarantine depending on the situation. If the rate of community infection rises, the PHO will revise recommendations as needed.

Please bring your safety concerns to your site health and safety committee.

UPDATED AUGUST 17, 2020

Managing students with complex behaviours, medical complexities or those receiving delegated care may require staff providing health services or other health care providers to be in close proximity or in physical contact with a medically complex or immune suppressed student.

In community-based clinical settings where there is a low incidence and prevalence of COVID-19, additional personal protective equipment over and above that required for normal practices is not required. The same guidance is applicable to staff providing health services and other health care providers who are providing health services in schools. However, if a person providing health services assesses the need for personal protective equipment beyond routine practices following a point of care risk assessment, it should be worn.

Staff providing health care services and other health care providers are required to wear a mask when working in close proximity with students.

When staff are in close physical proximity with a student within their learning group, personal protective equipment such as masks and gloves, is not required beyond that used as part of the personal care routine normally encountered in their regular course of work (e.g. gloves for toileting).

Wearing a non-medical mask, a face covering, or a face shield (in which case a non-medical mask should be worn in addition to the face shield) in schools outside of the circumstances outlined above is a personal choice and will be respected.

(See pages 10 and 21 of the updated health and safety guidelines for K-12 settings.)

All districts are required to submit their safety plan to the Ministry by August 21. Districts are also required to consult with unions prior to developing their plan. The K-12 Presidents Council has recommended that locals meet with their district now to give input on the safety plan. Many locals have started these meetings and will continue to do so as they work towards the August 21 deadline.

Please bring your safety concerns to your site health and safety committee.

Normally, when a worker files a Work­Safe claim due to an occupational disease, the worker is required to prove that the disease was caused by the workplace. This places an onerous burden on the worker to prove causa­tion, which is often highly controver­sial. However, WorkSafe maintains a list of diseases and industries in which the disease is presumed to be caused by the workplace if the workers work in one of the associated industries. Usually this occurs where scientific evidence establishes that certain occupational diseases occur more commonly in that industry. For example, the list includes a presumption for mesothelioma in industries where there is exposure to airborne asbestos dust. In those cases, the worker does not need to prove that their illness was caused by the workplace in order to access compensation.

WorkSafe has added a presumption that covers any “communicable viral pathogen” that is subject to an order of the Provincial Health Officer, or the subject of a state of emergency. The applicable industries include those where the risk of exposure to the disease is significantly greater than that of the public at large during the times and in the places covered by the Provincial Health Officer’s notice, or the state of emergency. The change means that anyone who contracts one of these diseases—and who works in an industry that is at greater risk of exposure to the disease—does not need to prove that they contracted the disease at the workplace.

The change is not restricted to COVID-19 and would also apply to future epidemics that are the subject of orders from the Provincial Health Officer or subject to a state of emergency.

Normally, changes to the list of pre­sumptions requires 90 days before they come into effect. Bill 23 overrides that time frame and allows the change to come into effect immediately.

In most cases, yes. Workers who contract COVID-19 will be able to claim Workers Compensation as long as they work in an industry that is at greater risk of exposure than the public at large. WorkSafe has not provided any guidance on what types of workplaces will be covered by this description, however, so there remains some uncertainty. In all likelihood, any workplace that includes exposure to the public or larger numbers of people will be covered.

Districts must follow the cleaning guidelines of the BC Centre for Disease Control and the Provincial Health Officer/BC Ministry of Health. This document provides guidance for K-12 schools settings, and it is updated regularly by the government as changes are made. For current and updated information on cleaning and disinfecting for public settings check out this document.

WorkSafeBC has added K-12 Guide­lines to their website. Find these additional resources here.

Parents and others who are permitted to come into schools will be required to follow the safety protocols outlined in the district’s safety plan. These protocols must follow PHO guidelines for safety at all times. CUPE and the K-12 Presidents Council have been advocating that all members of the public, including parents and volun­teers, check in with the school office or call prior to arriving at the school, and that schools limit the number of outside visitors whenever possible.

Please bring your safety concerns to your site health and safety committee.

Please refer to question #18 on the bcschools.cupe.ca website which deals with the need for personal protective equipment beyond routine practices.

(See pages 20 and 21 of the updated “Provincial COVID-19 Health & Safety Guidelines for K-12 Settings.”)

Wearing non-medical masks at all times is not recommended in schools because there are multiple, more effective infection prevention and exposure control measures in place. These measures provide multiple layers of protection that reduce the risk of transmission. They include:

  • Ensuring students and staff stay home when they are sick or required to self-isolate, including ensuring everyone who enters the school does a daily health check
  • Enhanced cleaning and disinfection
  • Placing students and staff into consistent groupings of people (learning groups)
  • Adapting learning environments to maximize use of space
  • Ensuring physical distancing can be maintained between learning groups
  • Frequent hand hygiene

Members will need to review their district’s safety plans in terms of the use of masks as some may vary.

(See page 21 of the updated “Provincial COVID-19 Health & Safety Guidelines for K-12 Settings.”)

Visitor access during school hours should be prioritized to those supporting activities that benefit student learning and well-being. Schools should ensure that visitors are aware of health and safety protocols and requirements prior to entering the school. Schools should keep a list of the date, names and contact information for any visitors who enter the school.

(See page 15 of the updated “Provincial COVID-19 Health & Safety Guidelines for K-12 Settings.”)

As per WorkSafeBC guidelines, employers must involve frontline workers, joint health and safety committees, and supervisors in identifying protocols for their workplace. School districts and schools should ensure they have active Site Committees and Joint Health and Safety Committees that meet regularly,including prior to any transitions between stages, and are included in school district/school planning efforts.

(See page 22 of the updated “Provincial COVID-19 Health & Safety Guidelines for K-12 Settings.”)

CUPE recommends three levels of health and safety committees, sometimes known as Joint Health and Safety Committees (JHSC) or Joint Occupational Safety and Health Committees (JOSH).

District Health and Safety Committee

The central, or district committee, oversees health and safety for large employers, employers with multiple work sites, and employers with complex or systemic issues that have wide impact such as violence in the workplace, as well as issues that require a lot of resources or require major actions to resolve.

Joint Health and Safety Committee

The second type of committee is the joint health and safety committee, which is the only type of committee recognized by WorkSafeBC. This joint committee is required under The Workers Compensation Act and should be included in a local’s collective agreement along with the other two levels of committees. This joint committee meets monthly and is required to comply with The Workers Compensation Act and the Occupational Health and Safety Regulations, as well as the committee’s Terms of Reference.

Site Health and Safety Committee

The third type of committee, a site (or local) health and safety committee is important for large locals that have numerous job classifications, complex and varied health and safety issues, or are spread out geographically  with a variety of departments or locations. Site committees know their workplace and gather information that is provided to the Joint Health and Safety Committees when action is required.

Specific information about K-12 site committees will be covered in a future bulletin.

To support physical distancing requirements, schools should consider installing barriers made of transparent material in places where physical distance cannot be regularly maintained, and a person is interacting with numerous individuals outside of a learning group. This may include a front reception desk where visitors check in, a library check-out desk, or where food is distributed in a cafeteria.

(See page 9 of the updated “Provincial COVID-19 Health & Safety Guidelines for K-12 Settings.”)

At this time, there is no evidence that a building’s ventiliation system, in good operating condition, is contributing to the spread of the virus.

School districts are required to ensure that heating, ventiliation, and HVAC (air conditioning) systems are designed, operated, and maintained as per standards and specifications for ongoing comfort of workers. The WorkSafeBC website has an FAQ on ventilation.

(See page 21 of the updated “Provincial COVID-19 Health & Safety Guidelines for K-12 Settings.”)

Please bring your safety concerns to your site health and safety committee.

Schools will have non-medical masks and face shields available for staff.

(See page 10 of the updated “Provincial COVID-19 Health & Safety Guidelines for K-12 Settings.”)

Staff are required to wear a non-medical mask, a face covering or a face shield (in which case a non-medical mask should be worn in addition to the face shield) in high traffic areas such as buses and in common areas such as hallways, or anytime outside of their learning group whenever physical distancing cannot be maintained (e.g., itinerant teachers, specialists interacting with multiple learning groups). Staff can also wear a mask, a face covering or a face shield within their classroom or learning group if that is their personal preference.

Schools and school districts will have non-medical masks available for staff and students, including anyone who becomes ill while at school. Schools and school districts should consider distributing masks and face shields at the beginning of the school year on an opt-out basis, rather than at the request of students/staff.

Wearing a non-medical mask, face covering or face shield in schools outside of the circumstances outlined above is a personal choice for students and adults. It is important to treat people wearing masks with respect.

Those that choose to wear non-medical masks, face coverings or face shields must still seek to maintain physical distance from people outside of their learning group. There must be no crowding, gathering or congregating of people from different learning groups, even if non-medical masks are worn.

(See page 20 of the updated “Provincial COVID-19 Health & Safety Guidelines for K-12 Settings.”)

Schools will have non-medical masks and face shields available for staff.

(See page 10 “Provincial COVID-19 Health & Safety Guidelines for K-12 Settings.”)

Staff are required to wear a non-medical mask, a face covering or a face shield (in which case a non-medical mask should be worn in addition to the face shield) in high traffic areas such as buses and in common areas such as hallways, or anytime outside of their learning group whenever physical distancing cannot be maintained (e.g., itinerant teachers,
specialists interacting with multiple learning groups). Staff can also wear a mask, a face covering or a face shield within their classroom or learning group if that is their personal preference.

Schools and school districts will have non-medical masks available for staff and students, including anyone who becomes ill while at school. Schools and school districts should consider distributing masks and face shields at the beginning of the school year on an opt-out basis, rather than at the request of students/staff.

Wearing a non-medical mask, face covering or face shield in schools outside of the circumstances outlined above is a personal choice for students and adults. It is important to treat people wearing masks with respect.

Those that choose to wear non-medical masks, face coverings or face shields must still seek to maintain physical distance from people outside of their learning group. There must be no crowding, gathering or congregating of people from different learning groups, even if non-medical masks are worn.

(See page 20 “Provincial COVID-19 Health & Safety Guidelines for K-12 Settings.”)

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Other

Districts are required to consult with unions in the district as part of the planning for stage two. Locals are encouraged to contact their districts to start these discussions now.

The Ministry of Education has allocated $45.6 million to schools to be used for various needs including hiring more staff, purchasing masks, and $3 million to support remote learning (including the purchase of devices and software).

UPDATED AUGUST 17, 2020

Provincial COVID-19 Health and Safety Guidelines for K-12 settings were updated on August 17, 2020. The updated guidelines require middle and secondary students to wear non-medical masks when they are on the bus. However, no student is required to wear a mask if they cannot tolerate it. Non-medical masks are not recommended for elementary school students.

Students in middle and secondary school are required to wear non-medical masks in high traffic areas such as buses and common areas such as hallways, or any time outside of their learning group whenever physical distancing cannot be maintained.

Staff are required to wear a non-medical mask, a face covering or a face shield (in which case a non-medical mask should be worn in addition to the face shield) in high traffic areas, common areas, and anytime they are outside of their learning group and cannot maintain physical distancing of two metres.

Staff can also wear a mask, a face covering or a face shield (combined with a non-medical mask) within their classroom or learning group if that is their personal preference. It is important to treat people wearing masks with respect.

(See pages 12 and 20 of the updated health and safety guidelines for K-12 settings.)

CUPE advocated for funding to hire additional staff and the government has allocated $23 million to immediately hire additional qualified custodians to fulfill the cleaning requirements in schools. BCCDC’s requirements include general cleaning and disinfecting of the premises at least once every 24-hours (includes items like an individual desk and locker that only a single student uses); cleaning and disinfecting frequently touched surfaces at least twice every 24 hours (e.g. door knobs, light switches, toilet handles, tables, desks and chairs used by multiple students, keyboards and toys); and cleaning every surface that is visibly dirty.

Yes. CUPE and the BCTF both sit on the steering committee and we support each other. We are all in this together.

Public schools will receive $42.5 million and private schools will receive $3.1 million through the grant.

Public School Safe Return to School Grant

($ millions)

Reusable Masks / Face Shields                  2.2

Computers and Assistive Technology       3.0

Cleaning Supplies                                          5.1

Improved Hand Hygiene                              9.2

Cleaning Frequency*                                     23.0

*This line item covers hiring additional staff for cleaning and disinfecting.

Staff and students can continue to bring personal items to school, but they should be encouraged to only bring necessary items, such as backpacks, water bottles, clothing and school supplies.

Staff and students should not share personal items, including electronic devices, pens, etc.

Personal items should be labelled with the student’s name to discourage accidental sharing.

(See page 11 of the updated “Provincial COVID-19 Health & Safety Guidelines for K-12 Settings.”)

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You can find pdfs of the updated Provincial COVID-19 Health & Safety Guidelines for K-12 Settings and K-12 Education Restart Plan under the Resources tab.

WorkSafeBC has added K-12 Guidelines to their website found here.

The steering committee continues to meet and we will continue to advocate on behalf of members’ concerns.

Bulletin 59 – New pandemic restrictions announced

As we welcome our members in public education back from spring break, we are unfortunately faced with deeply concerning trends in COVID-19 cases. According to Health Minister Adrian Dix, “rising case levels, variants of concern, increased transmission, and an increase in more severe cases are huge concerns.”

The Provincial Health Officer (PHO) amended several orders and guidelines to address the rising trends and announced that effective immediately all schools in B.C. will be requiring masks be worn at all times for everyone in schools Grades 4 and higher. Students in Kindergarten through Grade 3 will be strongly recommended to wear masks.

This requirement mirrors the order already announced in Surrey – School District 36. While the BCCDC continues to advise that masking remains the lowest form of protection on the hierarchy of protective intervention measure, this is welcome news to supplement other safety measures already required by the K-12 Provincial Guidelines and school district COVID Safety Plans.

The full list of new and amended orders can be found at the BC government website.

Pausing vaccination using AstraZeneca

Due to safety concerns, Canada’s National Advisory Committee on Immunization (NACI) is recommending provinces pause the use of the AstraZeneca-Oxford COVID-19 vaccine on people under the age of 55. Most provinces have announced that they would follow this guidance that will allow time for a NACI requested risk-benefit profile from AstraZeneca. BCCDC states that this should not significantly affect the vaccination roll-out for the K-12 sector.

The change comes following reports of very rare instances of blood clots in some immunized patients in Europe — notably among younger women. But 300,000 of these shots have already been administered in Canada, with no reports of blood clots here according to officials.

According to news reports, NACI vice-chair Dr. Shelley Deeks says that due to “substantial uncertainty” around these cases, the committee is recommending the suspension of shots in all people under 55 as a “precautionary measure.”

The blood clotting problem has not been reported in people who have received mRNA vaccines like the Pfizer and Moderna products.

What does this mean for CUPE members…

We know some of our members have already received this vaccine and may be concerned.

The NACI says vaccine-induced thrombocytopenia (VIPIT) resulting from the AstraZeneca vaccine appears to be extremely rare, occurring in anywhere from 1-in-125,000 to 1-in-1 million people. It also appears that if VIPIT occurs, it will be within 20 days of receiving the vaccine.

Despite this rarity, Health Canada advises that you should seek immediate medical attention if you develop any of the following symptoms after vaccination with AstraZeneca COVID-19 Vaccine or COVISHIELD:

  • shortness of breath
  • chest pain
  • leg swelling
  • persistent abdominal pain
  • sudden onset of severe or persistent worsening headaches
  • blurred vision that starts several days after vaccination
  • skin bruising or pinpoint round spots (other than at the site of vaccination) which starts a few days or more after vaccination

View PDF.

 

 

Surrey K-12 school-based staff to begin receiving vaccines today

SURREY—CUPE 728 members who are K-12 school-based support staff in Surrey will begin receiving vaccines today.

“This pandemic has been particularly stressful for K-12 workers throughout the system, and I thank all of them for the incredible work they’re doing every day to keep our schools open and safe,” says CUPE BC President Paul Faoro.

On Monday Dr. Bonnie Henry said that there is not enough vaccine to do everyone in the school system right now, so priority will be given where the risk is the greatest. Fraser Health and SD#36 are developing a vaccination plan for school-based staff.

“We are pleased that some of the K-12 school-based support staff in Surrey schools will be receiving vaccines,” said CUPE 728 President Tammy Murphy. “As more vaccines become available, it is our hope that all support staff receive their vaccines as soon as possible.”

Faoro says that dedicating any additional vaccine capacity to address potential high-risk worksites makes sense as B.C. continues to follow the guidance of the BC Centre for Disease Control.

Bulletin 58 – School support workers to have earlier access to vaccines

We are pleased with yesterday’s announcement by Premier John Horgan that education support workers will be included in Phase 2 and Phase 3 of B.C.’s vaccination plan.

We have advocated for this on many levels. Many of our members are in workplaces with high rates of exposure or do not have access to barriers while working indoors and in close proximity to large numbers of children and co-workers.

 

  • Approximately 340,000 doses of AstraZeneca/Covi-Shield, a fridge-stable vaccine, are expected to start arriving at the end of this month.
  • Starting in April, priority groups will focus on frontline workers including all staff in elementary and secondary schools.
  • Members in these priority groups are asked to not call their local health authority to book a vaccine appointment.
    Appointments will be organized by employers.
  • Vaccines will be administered by community pharmacists, at existing immunization clinics, and at mobile clinics in some worksites.
  • We expect that everyone in this sector will be able to be vaccinated by the end of May.

Details of the updated Immunization Plan can be found here.

Vaccination FAQ

If the adults in school (staff and administrators) are vaccinated, are they still at risk if they’re in a classroom of children who aren’t vaccinated?

All vaccines approved for use in Canada are effective in preventing COVID-19.

By fall 2021, we expect a large majority of adults in B.C., including school staff, to be vaccinated. As more people get vaccinated, we expect to see fewer cases of COVID-19 in communities, which means there should be fewer cases in schools.

People who are vaccinated can still get COVID-19, but are far less likely to experience severe illness. Even with most adults being vaccinated, there will likely still be some health and safety measures in place in schools and other settings until there is significantly less community transmission.

Here is the March 18 presentation on B.C.’s COVID-19 AstraZeneca/Covi-Shield Program.

View PDF.

Please follow us @cupek12bc on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram and view bulletins at https://bcschools.cupe.ca.

Bulletin 56 – B.C.’s vaccination plan updated

B.C.’s vaccine distribution plan focuses on first protecting the most vulnerable in Phases 1 and 2. We are now in Phase 2 which is expected to run from February to April. No one will lose their place in line. For example, if someone in Phase 2 cannot be immunized at that time, they can get the vaccine at any point thereafter.

Delay on second doses

On Monday, Dr. Bonnie Henry announced that every eligible adult in British Columbia should be able to receive a first dose of a COVID-19 vaccine by late July based on the approval of a new vaccine and the decision to delay second doses.

The National Advisory Committee on Immunization (NACI) gives the Public Health Agency of Canada scientific advice about immunization. It recommends that in the context of limited COVID-19 vaccine supply, the number of people receiving vaccines be maximized by extending the interval for the second dose to four months. This provides the opportunity to protect the entire adult population in a short timeframe. NACI will continue to monitor evidence on effectiveness of extended dose intervals and will adjust recommendations as needed.

Accelerating availability

A joint statement from the Minister of Health and the PHO noted that the addition of the newly approved AstraZeneca vaccine means they may be able to look at accelerating vaccine availability for essential workers. We are hopeful that the approval of the new vaccine will result in an earlier timeline for K-12 members.

Vaccines are safe

Health Canada has conducted a rigorous and thorough scientific review of the available medical evidence to assess the safety of the Pfizer, Moderna and AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccines before approving them. No major safety concerns have been identified in the data.

Canada has agreements with 7 pharmaceutical companies to get enough doses to immunize all Canadians.

The COVID-19 vaccine produces immunity which means that you can be exposed without becoming sick, or if you do become infected, it prevents more severe illness.

Vaccines protect both the vaccinated person and everyone around them.

CUPE encourages all members to receive the vaccine when it becomes available to them. We also recognize that some members will refuse the vaccine due to medical, religious or cultural reasons. If this is your situation, please work with your CUPE Local and National Representative.

View PDF.

Bulletin 55 – COVID-19 variants in K-12

As of February 21, the U.K. variant of COVID-19 has been identified in exposure events in five schools in Surrey and one school in Delta.

Surrey schools affected are:

  • AHP Matthew Elementary
  • James Ardiel Elementary
  • École Woodward Hill Elementary
  • Surrey Traditional Elementary
  • Tamanawis Secondary

One school in Delta, Hellings Elementary, also has been identified with the U.K. variant.

Thankfully all of the 35 tests, administered at the six schools, came back negative. Referencing that layers of protection are working, the PHO is not revising guidelines at this time, although they are closely monitoring the situation and will revise guidelines, following the science.

Variants

The COVID-19 B.1.1.7 variant, first identified in the United Kingdom, appears to make the virus more infectious, allowing it to spread more easily. There may be an increase in severity of symptoms and mortality rates depending on the variant of the virus.

When there have been several significant mutations to the virus, it is called a variant. A variant is considered “a variant of concern” when it affects:

  • disease spread
  • disease severity
  • tests used to detect the virus
  • vaccines and treatments

Stopping the spread

Our Early Years–K-12 members are to be commended for their commitment in keeping schools safe, while continuing to provide high quality education and care. It is more important than ever to remain vigilant in the personal efforts we are each making to stop the spread of COVID-19. This includes staying home when sick, washing hands frequently, maintaining physical distance when possible, and wearing a mask when not possible to maintain distancing.

Meanwhile, we are supporting you by successfully advocating for improvements to public health and health and safety measures, such as having school districts provide paid time for isolation, quarantine and school closures when directed by public health; and improvements to streamline the process of exposure notification recently announced by Fraser Health. The Rapid Response Team is now in place and will begin its work liaising with districts and health authorities next week. Fraser Health has now implemented additional protective measures in response to increasing COVID-19 and variant cases in the region.

CUPE continues to work with the BC Centre for Disease Control, the B.C. government, WorkSafeBC and all K-12 stakeholder groups in reviewing and amending health and safety guidelines. As a baseline, these are the minimum standards school districts must meet and worksite specific safety plans are required to detail these measures and address enhanced responses to local circumstances.

If you have concerns about the safety measures in your worksite, please work with your joint health and safety representatives and CUPE local to address these issues.

Please follow us @cupe12bc on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram and view bulletins at https://bcschools.cupe.ca.

View PDF.