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Interior Health making sure safety is top of mind when school returns

Later this week, school districts across B.C. will officially announce to the public their plans for their schools reopening.

It was last week that Chris van der Mark, the superintendent of schools with the Cariboo-Chilcotin, talked about the district’s plan.

Now with the parents, students, and teachers waiting to see what it will look like when students head back into the classroom, the Interior Health Regions Cheif Medical Health Officer, Dr. Albert de Villiers, is ensuring that safety is their top priority.

“We want to make sure everybody is safe. We will not ask parents to send their kids back to school into an unsafe situation,” he said. “We are actively working with the different school districts and making sure everybody is on the same page, o we can actually follow the right procedures. I think if everybody does what they are supposed to do, I think we will be able to send our kids back to a safe environment.”

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de Villiers said once school is back in session, he expects that there might be some cases of COVID-19.

“What we have seen so far is that kids can get COVID-19, but they don’t seem to be transmitting it amongst each other as much as adults do,” he stated. “Most of the cases in children that we have had in our area is where the kids got it from close contact, so people living within the house with them, and not necessarily from there friends or in a social setting. For the younger kids, I don’t think there will be any problem.”

de Villiers said that for teenagers, it would be a little bit different.

“For the older kids, we need to make sure they are physical distancing and making sure they do all the right things and all the right procedures, and they are actually doing what they are supposed to do,” he said. “It’s not going to be easy.”

de Villiers said he believes sending kids back to school outweighs the risk of COVID-19.

“If you don’t send kids back to school, there will be some effects that might be worse than COVID-19.”

“The kids need to learn. They need to socialize, and they need to get their mental health up as well,” he said. “They have been able to stay in contact at least with social media, so virtually they have been able to stay in contact, so I think that will help a little bit. I think the actually connected with people, and seeing them face to face will definitely help them.”

School districts are set to release their official plans on August 26.

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