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Dr. Henry: School exposure events are being posted

By Hannah Scott, Local Journalism Initiative reporter

Published 4:29 PDT, Thu September 24, 2020

COVID-19 exposure events in schools are being posted by health authority websites, provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry said today.

This statement comes amid a flurry of questions relating to school exposures, since the Fraser Health website reports many more than the Vancouver Coastal Health website. The exposure event reported last week at Richmond’s McMath secondary does not appear on the Vancouver Coastal Health website.

“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 do contact tracing and assess the risk,” said Henry. “I have full confidence that Vancouver Coastal is doing what we need them to do and that we are all in alignment about what we are talking about in terms of exposures within a school setting, and what will be posted on websites as exposure events.

“For all of our health authorities, the most important thing that we are focusing on is investigating whether somebody was actually infectious when they were in the school environment and making sure that the families and the school community has the information first.”

She added that the largest school districts are in the Fraser Health region, so it’s not surprising to her that that’s where many of the exposure events in schools have happened. All the exposure events that have occurred in schools have been relatively low risk.

“The types of exposures that are being seen in Vancouver Coastal—where people are being exposed, the clusters that we’re seeing—are different from what we’re seeing in communities in the Fraser Health region,” she said. “So it doesn’t surprise me that there’s a difference in the exposure events that are actually happening in schools in those regions.”

Henry also announced 148 new cases of COVID-19 in BC, including 12 that are epidemiologically linked. The new cases bring the province’s total to 8,543 since the pandemic began.

The number of active cases remains relatively stable, with 1,371 reported. However, the number of people under active public health monitoring continues to rise, with 3,417 people identified as being exposed to a confirmed case.

There are 61 people currently hospitalized, 20 of whom are in critical care. Unfortunately, there were two new COVID-19 related deaths in the Fraser health region, bringing BC’s total to 229.

There was a new healthcare outbreak in the Vancouver Coastal region at the Banfield Pavilion nursing home. The outbreak at the OPAL by Element assisted living facility, also in Vancouver Coastal Health, was declared over. There are 14 active outbreaks remaining in the healthcare system, nine in longterm care or assisted living and five in acute care.

There were no new community outbreaks, but exposure events continue across the province. Henry also provided some more details on social interactions as fall begins.

“A starting point for all of us is to remember that the more people we see, the higher our risk will be,” she said. “When deciding where to go and who to see, we all need to take a moment to think about two things. We need to consider the risks we’re going into—how many people will be there, what is the environment, is it indoors, is it outdoors—and we also need to consider the risks that we will be bringing with us when we leave. This will help us determine what is safe for us to do right now, and it may be very dependent on the things that we have done in the recent past.”

If you live with immunocompromised people or others at a higher risk of serious complications from COVID-19, Henry said it’s even more important to take a step back form social interactions now. 

For a list of community exposure events, click here.

For the latest medical updates, including case counts, prevention, risks and testing, visit: http://www.bccdc.ca/ or follow @CDCofBC on Twitter.

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