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Solution to COVID-19 school miscommunication in the works: B.C.'s top doctor

Last Updated Oct 5, 2020 at 5:27 am PDT

Summary

Dr. Bonnie Henry admits there have been glitches in school COVID-19 alerts, but progress is being made to improve this

Henry's team is preparing a flow chart to guide parents when kids have symptoms

There are still limitations to what can be said

VICTORIA (NEWS 1130) — B.C.’s top doctor says communicating COVID-19 cases in schools had its glitches, but the province is learning from its mistakes and changes are being made.

Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry responded Friday to criticism from parents concerned that key COVID-19 information regarding their children was being withheld. Henry said how it will be provided is being improved.

“We need to be able to communicate that better and we’re learning as we go,” she tells NEWS 1130. “Things that we thought would work and resonate, it’s come across differently. We need to recharge, we need to redo and make sure that our messages are clear.”

But Henry believes part of the problem is more than what she’s saying or not saying.

“In public health, I think sometimes we think everybody understands what we are saying and it’s become very clear that we need some things that are very simple that can help guide people and we are working on those.”

Henry says this will include a type of flow chart for families laying out situations and what to do when they happen. This will include instructions for parents in plain language for what to do with specific situations. But it won’t have certain information.

There are still limitations to what can be said, even to teachers, in order to protect privacy, and there is the possibility of mixed messages.

 

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“We know that there are lots of messages that fly around on social media and not all of them are true,” Henry says. “It’s very challenging for us, you know, we can’t give specific comments about specific people, it’s so important for us to maintain that trust with people.”

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With almost 2,000 schools and 500,000 students and a few dozen exposures, Henry says the return to school is going very well.

“Most of these, almost all of them have, been from exposures in the community. So we have a pretty good idea of where people have been exposed and for most of them the exposure period of time in the school is very short,” Henry says.

Several of COVID-19 exposures in schools are already over, with about 40 active ones.

Cases in school are still more often teachers and staff rather than students, Henry says.