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Province no longer reporting individual COVID cases in schools, orders safety plans for businesses

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A change in how cases are reported is coming as public schools are set to reopen Monday.

Officials said in a press conference Friday that the province will no longer be reporting individual cases at schools. Instead, schools will be reporting to the province when there is a notable amount of difference in attendance.

“Individual case management and contact tracing is no longer a helpful tool for us in tracking cases in schools,” said Jennifer Whiteside, BC Minister of Education. “Schools will be monitoring attendance rates closely and will notify public health and the school community if attendance dips notably below typical rates for this time of year. ”

Whiteside said if attendance dips, an investigation will launch to look into the issue.

Health officials confirmed schools will be restarting on Monday, and reminded parents that children will need to be sent to school with masks. Although, they say some masks are also available at schools.

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“On Monday, schools will be open with reinforced safety measures in place including the provision of three-layered disposable masks,” said Whiteside. “There will be measures to reduce crowding and to stagger break times.”

Whiteside says students will receive a “refresher” on how to use a mask and keep others safe. She said students and staff should also complete a COVID self-assessment before coming to school.

The provincial health officer also went on to order businesses to put back COVID-19 safety protocols as Omicron continues to affect the province.

“This is about activating all of those layers of protection again to reduce the impact of the Omicron circulation in our communities and making sure we can continue to work,” said Henry.

“This order is specific to industry and businesses and of course does not apply, as it didn’t in the previous iterations, to child care or post-secondary or the K-12 where we have added other plans that are unique to those settings.”

She says people who are healthy and are double vaccinated don’t need to get tested for COVID-19. She said people should self-isolate for five days before returning to work.

“If you are fully vaccinated, lower risk and mild symptoms you don’t need a test, ” she said. “Omicron is spreading widely in our communities. If you have those mild symptoms whether it’s a runny nose, a cough and you’ve been out in connection with other people it’s very likely that you have COVID.”

The PHO said PCR and rapid testings need to be saved for the most vulnerable as supply is limited and symptoms are mostly mild when vaccinated.

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