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Coquitlam mother wants mask mandate for younger grades as COVID-19 cases hit elementary schools

COVID-19 exposures have been reported in three local elementary schools, two in Coquitlam and one in Port Coquitlam, prompting calls for mask mandates for children in kindergarten to grade three.
Some parents are calling for children in kindergarten to Grade 3 to wear masks in schools to slow the spread of COVID-19. | File photo

Like many parents, Doreen Yeo is extra cautious when her children show signs of illness and COVID-19 is just adding to her concern.

So when her five-year-old son came home from school coughing last week she immediately got him tested; now, she wonders why kindergarten to grade three students are not required to wear masks.

While masks are required for grades four to 12, they are only recommended for students in kindergarten to grade three.

“If we don’t have kids [aged] five to 11 vaccinated it’s a reasonable precaution to take to make sure the spread is limited as much as possible,” said Yeo, a Coquitlam resident.

On Monday (Sept. 27), Vancouver's school board made masks mandatory for K-12 students.

Yeo wants a similar mask mandate for School District 43 (SD43), especially after hearing reports of outbreaks in a Chilliwack elementary school and a Maple Ridge independent school in recent days. As well, two Coquitlam and one Port Coquitlam elementary school have been hit by COVID-19 exposures in recent days.

“Who decided masks weren’t needed for younger grades and what’s the rational?” asked Yeo.

She’s written Dr. Bonnie Henry, Fraser Health and SD43 to urge masks for younger children and hopes other parents will do the same.

According to the Ministry of Health, individual health authorities can make mask mandates or other public policy requirements if there is “elevated risk.”

Yeo thinks there is already an elevated risk in schools.

Yeo, whose child attends Lord Baden Powell, said she received a COVID-19 exposure letter for her son’s class.

The letter, sent to her by Fraser Health on Saturday, Sept. 25, stated her son may have been exposed to the virus on either Sept. 15, 16 or 17.

Yeo said she had her son tested prior to receiving the notice as a precaution and made him wear a mask at home until the negative test was confirmed so he wouldn’t infect his two-year-old sibling.

“It’s stressful because I know it’s going to continue unless they revise protocols for schools and the next time he has a runny nose or a cough I’m going to have to get him swabbed,” Yeo said.

Teachers would also like to see masks for all students.

Coquitlam Teachers’ Association president Ken Christensen told the Tri-City News local teachers want a full mask mandate for SD43 students.

“We’ve seen that be an effective deterrent,” said Christensen.

Meanwhile, Dr. Bonnie Henry promised parents they would have more access to information about school exposures and she’s expected to provide more information at a briefing today (Sept. 28).

According to letters to families and posted to BC Covid Tracker, schools with recent exposures includes two Coquitlam elementary schools: Lord Baden Powell (Sept. 15-17) and Parkland (Sept. 22-24) and École Coquitlam River elementary schools in Port Coquitlam (Sept. 13-15).