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COVID-19 exposure notification site for B.C. schools on the way

Last Updated Sep 16, 2020 at 4:51 pm PDT

A physical distancing sign is seen during a media tour of Hastings Elementary school in Vancouver on September 2, 2020. Students across British Columbia are getting ready for COVID-19 orientation sessions this week amid a flurry of new protocols aimed at reopening schools while the pandemic wears on. Education Minister Rob Fleming has said districts are expecting 85 to 90 per cent of students to attend school in person, but some parents and students say they're frustrated by the lack of remote learning options, large class sizes and inconsistent messaging when it comes to physical distancing. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
Summary

A one-stop spot for COVID-19 exposure alerts in B.C. schools will be launched, according to the province

The hub website will link to each health authority's page and include the school, city, date, and type of notification

Fraser Health launched its school exposure alert page Wednesday

VANCOUVER (NEWS 1130) — A website is coming soon to notify parents of COVID-19 cases and exposures within the B.C. school system, the province confirmed Wednesday.

It will be an online resource, similar to the BC Centre for Disease Control’s exposure alert page. The hub website will link to each health authority’s page and include the school, city, date, and type of notification.


Fraser Health’s notification page for schools in its region launched Wednesday.

Health Minister Adrian Dix said in a tweet the BCCDC site will link to each health authority’s notification page as soon as they are available.


Now that school is back in session, Dix said he believes everyone can recognize the daily challenges students and teachers face during the pandemic.

“Easily accessible public resources can provide comfort to concerned teachers and families, and provide the public consistent information that reinforces confidence in the work we continue to do to ensure everyone remains safe and in good health.”

Balancing transparency and information 

Frustration mounted Tuesday over different information coming from different places as more cases in the school system were confirmed. When it comes to reporting COVID-19 cases and exposures in schools, Dix said the province is trying to be as transparent as possible.

Most of the school exposures have happened in the Surrey School District, and Superintendent Jordan Tinney said he has been handling the exposure information up to this point.

He stressed the importance of people feeling safe and informed.

“What’s most helpful is knowing has there been an exposure, and do I personally, my child, my son, my family do we have a need for concern, that’s it.”

Tinney also wants to see consistent information while hoping for few details about who has COVID-19 to retain anonymity.  For example, saying a person has the virus versus denoting if a student, teacher or staff member has been infected.

“Some schools are big and some schools are small. If I say there’s a non-teaching staff member at a school, that starts to get pretty specific,” he said. “I think we’ve got a good balance where we’re issuing these exposure letters. They’re non-specific to protect privacy and I think that piece is important.”

There are exposure notifications at seven schools in B.C., with six in the Fraser Health region and one in the Interior.

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Teri Mooring, BC Teachers’ Federation president, said the exposure site for schools is a good start, but suggests this information also be shared in the daily provincial COVID-19 briefing.

“There does need to be information about the schools impacted and that fact there’s been follow up with the families. We all want to be assured proper contact tracing is happening and that the proper notifications are happening, and I trust that that’s the case,” she added.

“I think it’s a good move for government to be upfront about where those cases are concerning.”

Mooring said the BCTF still wants to see a reduction in classroom density and improvements to ventilation systems, especially in areas impacted by poor air quality.

Alberta and Ontario already have similar notification systems in place, which launched prior to students’ return to the classroom.

For more back-to-school updates during the COVID-19 pandemic, click here.

-With files from Vanessa Doban