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FORT ST. JOHN, B.C. — School District 60 is seeing a spike in school absences due to sickness.

According to School District 60 superintendent Stephen Petrucci, the absences are higher than normal.

“I can definitely confirm that the spike in absences that we currently see is due to illness, and it is quite extensive across the district,” Petrucci said.

There is typically an increased amount of absences due to illness during the fall and winter months, Petrucci noted.

“I can also say that it seems to be higher this year than we’ve seen in the past.”

There have been reports from local parents that a local middle school had a large number of students absent on Tuesday. However, the school refused to comment, and the district was unable to confirm the number.

The district encourages students to wash their hands and stay home if they’re sick — the same precautions encouraged during the pandemic.

British Columbia’s provincial health officer said she doesn’t believe there’s a need for the “heavy hand” of a mask mandate. 

Dr. Bonnie Henry and Health Minister Adrian Dix held a press conference on Wednesday to discuss the respiratory illness season.

Henry noted that masks are an essential tool used in specific situations, such as healthcare settings.

“I do not believe we need the heavy hand of a mandate to send a clear message that masks are an important tool that we can all use during this time and in every respiratory season. We should have one with us, we should use it in situations where it makes sense,” said Henry.

Henry confirms that flu cases are up, but 90 per cent of British Columbians have some immunity to COVID-19, whether through vaccination, infection or both.

She adds that the flu is preventable by vaccines.

Dix said 1.2 million people have received the flu shot this year, twice as many as last year.

He said the province is opening more hospital beds in preparation, but the situation in B.C. isn’t as desperate as in other provinces.

With files from The Canadian Press

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Shailynn Foster

Shailynn Foster is a news reporter for Shailynn has been writing since she was 7 years old, but only recently started her journey as a journalist. Shailynn was born and raised in Fort St. John and she watches way too much YouTube, Netflix and Disney+ during the week while playing DND on the weekends.