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Owner of Chilliwack dance academy blames slow Fraser Health contact tracing amid COVID-19 outbreak

Last Updated Nov 4, 2020 at 3:23 pm PST

Capella Dance Academy in Chilliwack on Wednesday November 4th, 2020 Image Credit: CityNews

Chilliwack dance studio owner says she did more than Fraser Health asked to try to slow COVID spread

Sarah Wood says she learned about scale of ‘superspreader’ event tied to her business through the news

Students told to isolate 10 days after first positive test in 'superspreader event'

CHILLIWACK (NEWS1130) — As an outbreak of COVID-19 in Chilliwack continues to spread, the owner of a dance studio at the centre of it says she did everything, and more, that Fraser Health asked of her.

Sarah Wood is the owner of Capella Dance Academy. She says she was the one who had to track down her test results and claims it took days before Fraser Health provided any tangible or actionable instruction to help slow the spread of the coronavirus after she tested positive.

The outbreak has been dubbed a ‘superspreader event’ and the Chilliwack Progress is reporting the owner, two instructors, and 33 students have gotten sick.

“I have done my very best and anyone that knows me knows that. I have been a business in Chilliwack for 20 years and have served the community as best as humanly possible and will continue to do so,” she writes in a statement to the media and public.

Wood says she didn’t have any sense of the scale of the outbreak until it hit the news, despite working with Fraser Health.

“I did not know the amount of cases until it came out on the news and of course my heart was broken. I do not have any control on how fast Fraser health (sic) is working,” she writes.

‘This virus did not START in my studio’

As news broke that more than two dozen people associated with Capella Dance Academy had contracted COVID-19, people began to lash out online, accusing Wood of trying to keep it a secret.

She says being accused of a coverup when she worked so hard to keep her dancers safe has taken its toll.

“Our dancers are friends at school, dance and outside of dance. I do not know where I contracted this virus. I don’t leave town, I don’t see friends or attend any gatherings,” she claims.

Wood says the blowback has been stressful which has harmed her recovery from COVID-19 and caused more anxiety about her small business.

“The facts are this virus did not START in my studio. It has affected 45 million people across the planet. I have been open and transparent which is more then (sic) many other businesses that have also already been through this.”

Days without instructions

On Friday, Oct. 23, Wood says she started to feel like she had a cold and was tested that morning. She says she self isolated and waited three days with no word on results, so called on Monday to find out she had the virus.

That same day Wood contacted Fraser Health to inform them, and despite being told it wasn’t necessary, closed her dance school.

“My gut told me otherwise so I immediately decided to shut my business down [and] contacted parents,” her statement says.

According to Wood, she waited another four days before Fraser Health contacted her with instructions to email only the families of students in classes she taught and that they should self-isolate for 14 days.

“There wasn’t much contact tracing, they simply told me when I would have been contagious and sent me a letter to send to my families directly affected on my contagious days. Thinking that wasn’t enough action I chose to send it to the entire studio,” she says.

My Press release sent to the media upon many requests for interviews. Unfortunately my health has suffered due to the…

Posted by Capella Dance Academy on Tuesday, November 3, 2020

She says that email prompted “a great deal” of dancers to be tested and some people who were asymptomatic turned out to have the coronavirus.

About three days later, Wood says Fraser Health called again asking for help to make the contact tracing easier, as the health agency seemed to be “quite overwhelmed with the growing numbers in B.C.”

At this point, Wood alleges, Fraser Health changed its course and instructed her to blanket email her studio and ask dancers to self-isolate as an extra precaution as contact tracing work continued.

However, Wood points out that instruction came 10 days after she first felt ill and sought testing, six days after she closed the studio.

Still, she provided phone numbers for her clients hoping it could help.

“I do not have any control on how fast Fraser health is working. I have cooperated 110% since the beginning to get this ball rolling. I do not have any control over how fast the school district is contacted. Fraser health (sic) is in charge of all contact tracing.”

Wood is hoping others will learn from her experience and get tested like she did, right away. She’s also calling for increased transparency from businesses, schools, and the government health agencies.

In an email to NEWS 1130, Fraser Health says it’s looking into the matter and would provide an update.