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Vancouver Coastal is sharing COVID-19 school exposures as it should: Dr. Henry

Last Updated Sep 25, 2020 at 3:58 pm PDT

FILE - Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry. (Courtesy Government of B.C., Flickr)
Summary

Vancouver Coastal Health has listed exposures at two schools on its website

The Fraser Health Authority has listed 23, including 15 in Surrey

About 30 school notifications exposure events have happened across the province, which has more than 2,000 schools

VICTORIA (NEWS 1130) — Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry is confident the Vancouver Coastal Health Authority is doing what is needed regarding sharing information about COVID-19 exposures involving schools.

Vancouver Coastal Health has listed exposures at two schools on its website, while the Fraser Health Authority has listed 23, including 15 in Surrey.

That doesn’t surprise Henry who recognized there have been some challenges, and said it has taken some time to develop a consistent process across the province.

“The largest school districts are in the Fraser Health region,” she said.

Henry also said most of the exposures in Fraser Health have been relatively low-risk and have all been managed with public health and schools together.

Regarding Vancouver Coastal, Henry said the exposures are different than in Fraser Health.

“So it doesn’t surprise me at all that there’s a difference in the exposure events that are actually happening in schools in those regions.”

Henry added there have been no exposures events on Vancouver Island yet.

“So that’s just the way it is, it’s around how the virus is being transmitted and where the clusters are occurring.”

Henry said Vancouver Coastal is doing what is required by public health.

“When there is a potential school exposure, the first thing that happens in all of our schools around the province is public health steps in to conduct contact tracing and assess the risk for each individual student, teacher, staff in that community,” she added.

“Schools issue alerts when a school exposure has occurred. And supporting these protocols, the BCCDC website and our health authority websites are also publishing school notifications,” she said.

“It’s important because it provides public information that helps you understand what is happening in our school communities around the province. It allows parents to know where exposures are, and have confidence in knowing that if they have not been contacted, their families, have not had as risky exposure in the school community.”

 

Most important, however, is focusing on investigating whether somebody was actually infectious when they were in a school environment, and making sure that families and school communities have the information first, Henry said.

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“And so that is the focus of all of our health authorities, and we will all be posting all of the exposure events on the website.”

Henry also said the privacy of individuals will be maintained.

About 30 school exposure events have happened across the province, which has more than 2,000 schools.

“We have had no outbreaks in our school system yet, but we are monitoring and health authorities and public health is there for every single school, and we will continue to be there as we move through this pandemic.”

Henry also reported 148 new cases of COVID-19 in the province on Thursday, along with two deaths.

Both of the deaths happened in Fraser Health and bring the total in B.C. to 229.

Henry acknowledged that a death from last weekend involved an elder from the Nak’azdli Whut’en First Nation.

Of 1,371 active cases, 61 people are in hospital, including 20 in critical care.

Henry said an outbreak has been declared at Banfield Pavillion, long-term care facility in Vancouver, while another is over at OPAL by Element, a retirement home also in Vancouver.

Outbreaks remain active in 14 health facilities in B.C.

Henry added a flu vaccine should be widely available soon.