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Dozens of new COVID-19 cases, exposures reported at schools across Lower Mainland

FILE -- Specimens to be tested for COVID-19 are seen at a lab, in Surrey, B.C., on Thursday, March 26, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck

The long weekend was another busy one for COVID-19 contact tracers dealing with school communities in B.C.

Dozens of new exposures at schools on the Lower Mainland have been listed over the past few days

VANCOUVER (NEWS 1130) – New COVID-19 exposure notices and positive cases have been reported at dozens of schools across B.C. over the long weekend.

Since Saturday, 124 new school exposures were listed by the popular BC School COVID Tracker on Facebook. It’s tally is now close to 3,000 since the beginning of the school year at more than 900 schools.

The Burnaby, Coquitlam, Langley, and Surrey school districts are among those in the Fraser Health region reporting a number of new potential exposures over the weekend.

While Vancouver Coastal Health has not yet updated its list, it’s also expected to include a number of new notices, with letters posted online by parents and the school community.

The North Shore is one of the regions that’s seen a significant increase in letters going out to parents.

One school issued five exposure notices in less than a week. The school’s principal and vice-principal said in its latest letter that all individuals and classes impacted have been contacted and that protocols were being implemented.

The pair addressed recent concerns about rumours which began to circulate after some high schools in North Vancouver reported cases and exposures that were potentially linked to a social gathering among students weeks earlier.

“I appreciate this news may be unsettling for many in our school community. However, I would like to reassure you that the health, safety and well-being of our students, staff and families remain our highest priority. We will continue to implement the strict protocols and procedures that are in place so that students and staff can continue to attend school as safely as possible,” the letter reads.

“As the school year continues, it is normal that students and staff will be away from school from time-to-time due to other illness or for family circumstances. We ask that you please do not engage in rumours or speculation, and please continue with the daily health checks to monitor your child for illness,” the note continues.

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In addition to high school exposures, there have also been new cases at the elementary school level, some apparently linked back to hockey programs.

A hockey club in West Vancouver has sent a letter to parents confirming three U-11 players have tested positive for COVID-19, though the club says it seems they contracted the virus while carpooling to a non-team activity.

Meanwhile, in Burnaby, Fraser Health has issued exposure notices for the Burnaby Winter Club Hockey 2 Team.

A new mask mandate, announced on Feb. 4, requires all teachers and staff in K-12, as well as all high school students, to wear masks in all indoor areas, including when they are in learning groups.

Elementary students are not forced to wear masks in these spaces, unless they decide to do so.

Exemptions remain in place for those who can’t wear masks for health or behavioural reasons. Students and staff are allowed to remove their masks when they are sitting or standing at their seat or workstation in a classroom, if there is a barrier, or if they are eating or drinking.

-With files from Liza Yuzda