B.C. teacher wasn’t told of COVID-19 case in cohort, later tests positive

Click to play video: 'West Vancouver teacher tests positive for COVID-19'
West Vancouver teacher tests positive for COVID-19
The West Vancouver teachers' association is raising concern about contact tracing after a teacher in its district tested positive for COVID-19. The city's association says the teacher was never contacted by health authorities and didn't know she was exposed until after students contacted her. Grace Ke reports – Sep 22, 2020

A West Vancouver teacher has filed a claim with WorkSafeBC after officials failed to tell her that a COVID-19 exposure at her school was within her cohort, and she later tested positive herself.

The principal at Sentinel Secondary notified staff and parents on Saturday that someone in the school had tested positive for the coronavirus, according to Renée Willock, president of the West Vancouver Teachers’ Association.

Later that day, a number of students in the same cohort as the test-positive case were told to self-isolate, Willock said.

But the teacher didn’t find out until those same students contacted her to ask about remote-learning options, she said.

Click to play video: 'New health guidelines for sending B.C. kids to school sick'
New health guidelines for sending B.C. kids to school sick
“[The teacher] was really surprised that she hadn’t been contacted by the health authority, considering that this happened within her classroom and that she had been interacting with all of the students,” Willock said.
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On Sunday, the teacher wasn’t feeling well and went to get tested. She got a positive result for the coronavirus that same day, Willock said.

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The BC Centre for Disease Control is working to determine how the student and teacher got infected.

According to the BC Centre for Disease Control website, contact tracers at regional health authorities reach out to people who are a contact of someone confirmed to have COVID-19. Those who are not showing symptoms are asked to self-isolate for 14 days.

But provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry has said that not everyone in a school cohort may be considered a close contact.

“Even if you’re in a classroom with somebody who has COVID, if you’re sitting at a desk and you’re not close to them, you have not had close contact with them,” she told a news conference earlier this week.

The school issued the letter on Saturday, but Vancouver Coastal Health didn’t have Sentinel Secondary on its list of school exposures until late Tuesday morning.

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“If you know that something is happening and yet you look on the health authority’s website and it says it’s not happening, your confidence in the system is diminished,” Willock said.

Asked about the delay, Henry said earlier this week that Vancouver Coastal Health wanted to ensure the school community was notified first, before the public notification.

BC Teachers’ Federation president Teri Mooring confirmed the teacher has filed a WorkSafeBC claim.

“That’s exactly the right step to take if a teacher suspects they’ve contracted the virus in a school setting or work setting,” she said.

Willock added that better physical-distancing and more mask-wearing is needed.

“The plan around cohorts and contact-tracing isn’t enough,” she said. “Not everyone who needed to be notified, was notified.”

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