School COVID exposures will be posted, says Henry

Parents will be informed of COVID-19 exposures that occur in schools, said Dr. Bonnie Henry, the province’s medical health officer, Thursday.

If a student or teacher tests positive, contact tracing will happen first and anyone at risk will be notified, said Henry.

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Health authorities will also post notices on their websites advising of school exposures, said Henry.

Henry made the comments Thursday in response to questions about why Vancouver Coastal Health officials have said they don’t intend to post names of schools where exposure to the virus may have happened.

On Thursday there were only two school listed by Vancouver Coastal Health – including Sentinel Secondary in West Vancouver – as having had students or teachers exposed to the virus.

In contrast, Fraser Health listed over 20 potential school exposures.

Henry said Thursday posting a list of school exposures is important because “it provides public information that helps you understand what is happening in our school communities around the province, allows parents to know where exposures are and have confidence in knowing that if they have not been contacted, their family has not had an exposure in the school community.”

Henry said it’s taken some time for health officials to become consistent across the province. She added there have also been some different interpretations between health authorities about what is considered a publicly reportable “exposure.”

Earlier this week, a teacher at Sentinel Secondary filed a WorkSafe claim and raised concerns after she contracted COVID-19 following a possible exposure to a student who had the virus in her classroom. The teacher wasn’t told of the possible exposure by health officials, said Renee Willock, president of the West Vancouver Teachers Association, because she wasn’t considered a “close contact” – usually defined as someone who has had close face-to-face contact with an infected individual for at least 15 minutes.

Willock said the situation has left teachers concerned that there hasn’t been enough transparency and notification around COVID-19 exposures in schools.

Sentinel has since been added to the VCH list of school exposures.

On Thursday, Henry said with over 2,000 schools around the province, some exposure to the virus in schools is to be expected.

Henry said there have so far been no outbreaks in schools – defined as more widespread transmission of the virus within a school setting. “But we’re monitoring,” she said.

 


 

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