EDITORIAL: Health authority failing the test of public confidence with school exposure reporting

As teachers and students headed back to the classroom earlier this month, there were lots of reassurances offered.

Students would be divided into cohorts making contact tracing easier if needed. Those at risk for contracting the virus through a classmate or a teacher would be promptly informed.

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More recently, Dr. Bonnie Henry assured parents that all schools where someone had potentially been exposed to the virus would be publicly reported. But as we head further into fall, that’s not exactly what we’ve seen happening after both confirmed and suspected COVID-19 exposures have occurred at several local schools. Some students have been left wondering why only some of their classmates were told to stay home after one of their peers tested positive.

Teachers are also not always being told when one of their students or peers contracts the virus.

As of Tuesday, next to nothing had been publicly reported by Vancouver Coastal Health.

Likely this approach is meant to safeguard privacy and prevent unnecessary panic. So far, it’s done neither. It doesn’t take a lot to imagine a scenario where contact tracing that relies on teens to remember details of their activities over a number of days might not be 100 per cent reliable. As people tasked with taking on more risk than average in their work environment, teachers also deserve more timely and upfront information. Vancouver Coastal Health’s don’t-ask-don’t-tell approach to information sharing does nothing to inspire public confidence, at a time when health authorities are counting on the public to both trust and listen to them.

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