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Parents laud Surrey schools, Fraser Health for sharing COVID-19 school exposures

Last Updated Sep 24, 2020 at 2:03 pm PDT

FILE - The Surrey school district office building. (Courtesy, Surrey Schools)
Summary

B.C.'s hardest hit health authority and school district are being lauded for their response to COVID-19 exposure events

Surrey schools have recorded 18 COVID-19 exposures at 15 schools

To date, 40 schools in B.C. have had COVID-19 exposures

SURREY (NEWS 1130) – B.C.’s hardest hit health authority and school district are being lauded by parents and community members for their response to COVID-19 exposure events in schools.

So far, Surrey schools have recorded 18 COVID-19 exposures at 15 schools, according to the Fraser Health Authority website, while other regions are clamouring for information.

Surrey school district superintendent Jordan Tinney said, in reporting exposures, he’s just doing what is best for his community and is uncomfortable with comparisons to other regions.

From the start, he said Fraser Health has asked how he wanted to proceed with getting the information out. Tinney offered to get as much information out as soon as possible.

“For us, in discussion with Fraser Health, any time there is a case linked to a school, we will go public,” he said.

“I remember had one on a Friday and they said, ‘Well, you could send the letter out on Friday night.’ And I said, ‘We’re not sending the letter out Sunday night — it will be all over social media by then. Let’s get the letter out.’ And they’re like, ‘OK, good, we can get that letter to you in an hour,’ and it was done.”

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Tinney added school communities are nervous and need the most information he can give.

“We’re seeing repeat notices and we are also clear whether those cases are linked or not,” he said.

If a school member with COVID-19 walks into a building, then right back out, the Surrey district — the largest in the province with almost 74,000 students — will let everyone know.

That is in stark contrast to the Vancouver Coastal Health Authority, which, as of Thursday morning, had listed just two school exposures.

Vancouver Coastal Chief Medical Health Officer Dr. Patricia Daly has said public notices will happen only if an entire class must be informed.

Vancouver Coastal has also said other notices about exposures from schools have to be confirmed.

“VCH Public Health teams actively monitor and trace cases of COVID-19 in schools on a 24/7 basis,” says a release from Daly and Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry on Thursday.

“Our immediate priority for every known case is to identify people who have been their close contacts during the infectious period, to notify these contacts and then to ensure that all contacts are following the appropriate public health directions for self-isolation,” they add.

“Whether in schools or other settings, VCH notifies all contacts of cases exposed to COVID-19 in the most direct manner possible.”

That the most effective contact tracing practice, they say.

“It allows public health to provide clear direction to those contacts while respecting patient confidentiality, which is important for the effective management of the pandemic.”

When exposures occur in classrooms or cohorts in school settings, VCH works with administrators to send an email and letter to notify staff, students, and parents.

“VCH Public Health will follow-up directly with all contacts who receive a notification in order to provide further public health advice,” health officials say.

“All notifications to school administrators – including school exposure and outbreaks – are posted to the VCH school exposure webpage.”

The Vancouver school district has about 50,000 students.

The B.C. teacher’s union is concerned about inconsistent reporting of COVID-19 exposures in schools and a lack of transparency from some health regions.

To date, 40 schools in B.C. have had COVID-19 exposures.