The British Columbia Teachers Federation says data published by WorkSafeBC revealing “significantly higher” COVID-19 infection claims among elementary school teachers compared to their secondary school counterparts shows the importance of wearing masks in classrooms.
Teri Mooring, BCTF president, noted that as of March 11 a total of 80 occupational COVID-19 infection claims were approved for K–7 teachers, compared to 25 for Grades 8–12 teachers.
“The discrepancy in infection rates truly underscores the importance of mask-wearing in classrooms,” Mooring said. “Elementary schools aren’t subject to any mask mandates for students, unlike our secondary schools. The lack of transparent data about transmission in schools means we can only guess that the lack of masks is leading to more infections among elementary teachers.”
A BCTF press release issued Tuesday indicates that to that date 89 per cent of elementary school teachers’ COVID-19 claims had been allowed compared to 74 per cent for registered nurses and registered psychiatric nurses, and 71 per cent of claims for all occupations.
Mooring noted that Public Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry and the provincial government “seem to be holding firm with their current mask mandates, so while we continue to advocate for stronger measures, we also need to rely on parents to talk to their children about the importance of wearing a mask for everybody’s safety.”
The BCTF president said the education sector is second only to the health sector in the number of compensation claims filed with WorkSafeBC for occupational COVID-19 infection.
Mooring said public school teachers and staff have the third highest number of compensation claims, behind workers in long-term care and acute care settings, and the number of claims filed by public school employees exceeds that of health care workers in other settings such as community health support services and emergency health care.
The BCTF is advising teachers who are working in a classroom environment “where there is a significant risk of exposure” to COVID-19 to “work with their local union” to file a claim with WorkSafeBC if they are diagnosed with the coronavirus.