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B.C. teachers worried by inconsistent COVID-19 school exposure info

Last Updated Sep 23, 2020 at 12:37 pm PDT

FILE: 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

BCTF president says there are concerns among teachers about contact tracing, inconsistent communication of exposures

Teri Mooring says it's frustrating and it seems there are different criteria for schools issuing exposure notifications

Medical Health Officer Dr. Patricia Daly says the people who need to be informed of a close COVID-19 contact have been

VANCOUVER (NEWS 1130) — The B.C. teacher’s union says it’s concerned about inconsistent reporting of COVID-19 exposures in schools and a lack of transparency from one health region in particular.

Since the province announced COVID-19 exposure alerts in schools would be made available online, Vancouver Coastal Health has faced criticism for the way it has handled its alerts. The health authority had only posted one exposure at a school, despite there being others. 

BC Teachers’ Federation President Teri Mooring says it’s frustrating and it seems there are different criteria for schools issuing potential exposure notifications and making them public on health authority’s websites.

“There’s a real time-lag, it seems to me, especially in terms of the contact tracing,” she says. “And that’s causing a lot of alarm because we know the learning groups and the cohort model is to enable quick and efficient contact tracing.”

RELATED: COVID-19 outbreaks in schools can be managed, says B.C.’s top doctor

She feels as if the procedure of informing school communities across B.C. isn’t the same, and there is “also the lack of consistency generally with the local health authorities in terms of how they are contacting individuals.”

She says it isn’t clear why there is a difference in speed for when school districts are given authority to send notifications out.

Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry has said updating health region’s websites applies to all of B.C.

“We expect that Vancouver Coastal would adhere to what everyone else is doing, as well as our provincial standard,” she said Monday during the daily briefing.

She added the risk of transmission remains low even if there is an outbreak.

The BCTF plans to send a letter with their concerns to provincial health officials.

However, VCH’s Chief Medical Health Officer Dr. Patricia Daly reassures that those who need to know about exposures are being informed, even if it isn’t online.

“That’s not the primary way that parents will be notified. They’ll be notified directly by public health,” she says. “We’re not hiding anything. Some principals have sent out letters to reassure that they’ve heard rumours of cases that they will be notified directly.”

Daly explains if there were close contacts to an infected person, they would be notified by public health authorities.

“If there has been an exposure in a classroom, that warrants a letter to the whole class, then we will post that to our public website in addition.”

As of Wednesday morning, more than 30 potential exposures but no school transmissions have happened so far.

A teacher in West Vancouver became the first to make a complaint with WorkSafeBC after contracting COVID-19.