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New data published by WorkSafeBC shows significantly higher rates of occupational COVID-19 infection claims among elementary school teachers compared to those teaching in secondary schools. As of March 11, 2021, 80 occupational COVID-19 infection claims had been approved for K–7 teachers, compared to 25 for those teaching Grades 8–12.

“The discrepancy in infection rates truly underscores the importance of mask-wearing in classrooms,” said BCTF President Teri Mooring. “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.” 

To date, 89% of elementary school teachers’ COVID-19 claims have been allowed, compared to 74% allowed among registered nurses and registered psychiatric nurses, and 71% of claims for all occupations. According to the WorkSafeBC website, “claims are allowed when the evidence is sufficient to establish the worker has COVID-19 and the risk in the workplace was significantly higher than the ordinary exposure risk.”

In the two weeks since the WorkSafeBC data was last updated, an additional 31 claims for occupational COVID-19 infection were filed by workers in a public school district setting—an increase of nearly 15%. 

“The Public Health Officer and 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,” said Mooring.

The education sector remains second only to the health care services sector in the total number of compensation claims filed with WorkSafeBC for occupational COVID-19 infection. Teachers and staff in public school districts have the third highest number of compensation claims—behind only workers in long-term care and acute care settings—when broken down by subsector. The number of claims registered by public school district workers exceeds those of health care workers in other settings, including community health support services and emergency health care.

The BCTF’s WorkSafeBC Advocacy Office is advising all teachers 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 should they be diagnosed with the virus.

For more information, contact Lauren Hutchison, BCTF Media and Public Relations, at  604-871-1881 or lhutchison@bctf.ca.

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