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Schools send dozens of COVID-19 exposure notices in one day, as cases spike in Surrey, Fraser Valley

Last Updated Nov 10, 2020 at 10:08 am PDT

(Lasia Kretzel, NEWS1130 photo)

Dozens of new COVID-19 exposure alerts issued at schools across Lower Mainland on Monday

Kids are being encouraged to mask-up while staff are being reminded to keep their distance as COVID-19 alerts rise

Surrey district says schools are 'keeping things in check' despite rising number of exposure alerts

SURREY (NEWS 1130) – There were 34 COVID-19 exposure notices sent to schools across B.C. on Monday, according to BC School COVID Tracker, a parent-run group, which says it’s the most ever seen in a single day.

It comes after weeks of rising case numbers, particularly in the Fraser Health region, where officials have enacted targeted public health orders for at least the next two weeks.

Families from Chilliwack to West Vancouver, and many in between, received notices saying that someone at their child’s school has tested positive for COVID-19.

The exposures also include schools in Abbotsford, Agassiz, Burnaby and Vancouver, and mostly point to events last week, including at an online and distributed learning centre in Langley.

123 exposures, three cases of transmission

Surrey Schools Superintendent Jordan Tinney says despite more than 120 exposure events in his district, there have only been three cases of transmission

“So the transmission, I would think, would come when we see classes, whole classes, put into self-isolation. So we’ve had three full classes put into self-isolation, or a larger group,” he says in a video posted to Twitter on Monday.

“There’s no question that COVID is among us. The numbers are increasing. And what I believe we continue to see is that in controlled environments, like schools, where we have in place health measures and cleaning protocols that we follow every single day, we are keeping things in check,” says Tinney.

“If we weren’t, we would see many more transmission situations in schools and we’re just not seeing that. I’m not saying that it hasn’t happened, but again, 123 notices of exposure, three cases of self-isolation.”

Surrey Schools has been applauded for transparency in providing families with timely information about possible exposures in its district, as others lag behind.

Meanwhile a group of parents that’s tracking school exposures independently says more than 15 per cent of B.C. schools have been impacted by 485 exposure events in 306 locations, since September.

“As we add each new school to the list we take pause and soak in the fact that each one represents at least one person if not more who is sick. We are sending our thoughts and well wishes to everyone who is recovering. Please get well soon!!” the group posted in a comment on its running list of exposure events.

New health orders and schools

On Saturday, the province announced new health orders on gatherings as case counts continued to rise across B.C.

Tinney is encouraging families and the public to respect these new measures, saying despite COVID-19, good things are happening in schools, and that that’s where kids should stay.

“I want to say, there’s really no surprises in those new health orders, re-emphasizing the importance of wearing masks. Please wear a mask,” Tinney says, adding people should stay home if they’re feeling unwell.

“We need to remain vigilant and it’s clear the new orders are a sign that there is concern in the community, particularly in Fraser Health, where you know we have a vast majority of the cases. Each one of us needs to do our part,” Tinney adds.

On Monday, Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry reiterated that keeping kids in school is a priority, and clarified that cases are cropping up among students and teachers because of contacts outside of school.

“We’ve seen it around the world and we’ve seen it here in B.C. What happens in schools reflects what’s happening in the community. We have seen exposures at schools in the province, but we see very little transmission in schools,” she said.