British Columbia

B.C. makes masks mandatory in schools when physical distancing can't be maintained

Ministry of Education says staff and students in middle and secondary schools will have to wear masks in areas like hallways and buses.

Middle and secondary school students and staff required to wear masks in high traffic areas like hallways

Students are pictured being welcomed back to school with physical distancing protocols in place at Lynn Valley Elementary in North Vancouver, British Columbia on Monday, June 1, 2020. (Ben Nelms/CBC)

All staff and students in B.C. middle and secondary schools will have to wear masks in areas where physical distancing cannot be maintained, according to the provincial government.

The Ministry of Education made the announcement Monday, saying that that masks will be required in high traffic areas like buses and in common areas like hallways.

A ministry news release says students and staff  will still have to physically distance from people outside their designated learning group, even if they are wearing a mask.

School guidelines ensure that different learning groups do not congregate in the same areas. 

Students who cannot wear masks for medical reasons will be exempted from the new guidelines.

The province says it's providing additional funding to help school districts buy up to 1.5 million masks — enough for every public-school staff member and student to have at least two masks.

It says that Canadian Shield, a manufacturer of personal protective equipment products in Ontario, is donating an additional 54,500 face shields for K-12 schools in B.C.

In addition to the updated guidelines on the use of masks, the government says it is increasing the cleaning of things like
doorknobs, keyboards, desks and chairs.

As well, students, staff and visitors will be required to clean their hands before boarding school buses or entering schools. Hands will also have to be cleaned before and after eating, when using washrooms and using playground equipment.

Schools are scheduled to open on Sept. 10.

On Monday, the province also announced a total of 236 new COVID-19 cases diagnosed across the previous three days, continuing the upward trend in infections. Deputy Provincial Health Officer Dr. Reka Gustafson said most of the new cases originated with young adults.

With files from Canadian Press

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