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West Vancouver parents demand more information about COVID-19 school exposures

Click to play video 'Parents, teachers call for greater transparency of COVID exposures in schools' Parents, teachers call for greater transparency of COVID exposures in schools
B.C. parents and teachers are calling for more transparency about COVID-19 exposures in schools. Grace Ke has the details, and the response from provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry. – Oct 5, 2020

A group of West Vancouver parents has written a letter to health officials saying there has been a communications breakdown when it comes to COVID-19 exposures in schools.

In an open letter to provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry and Vancouver Coastal Health Chief Medical Health Officer Dr. Patricia Daly, parents at Caulfeild Elementary asked for more transparency in releasing information about COVID-19 in schools.

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B.C. modelling numbers show the latest COVID-19 impact on school-age kids – Oct 5, 2020

They asked for school exposure events to be publicly disclosed promptly and entire cohorts should be isolated when a case of COVID-19 arises.

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“Instead of waiting for contact tracing to identify which close contacts need to self-isolate, notify parents and teachers immediately and require the entire cohort self-isolate and have contact tracing identify which students are able to return to class,” the letter reads.

The letter also said siblings of children in cohorts that have been exposed should be asked to self-isolate.

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The BC Teachers’ Federation says it has expressed similar concerns to health officials.

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“What’s really confusing to people is that there’s a lot of self-reporting happening by families on social media and it is not at all matching what is being officially reported,” BCTF president Teri Mooring said.

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“So officially there’s been no clusters, no outbreaks reported even though the information being shared seems contrary to the definitions that we understand that a cluster to be and an outbreak to be.

“While this discrepancy continues and while there isn’t faith in the fact that there’s transparency and full reporting on the behalf of the local health authorities, we will continue to get-sharing by families on social media and disclosures on social media.”

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Parents of kids at Caulfeild have said they have taken to social media to share information on the number of COVID-19 cases in a Grade 2 class there due to a lack of information from B.C. public health officials. They’re going to continue sharing it amongst themselves.

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Read more: West Vancouver parents turn to Facebook for COVID-19 updates: ‘I’m terribly uneasy’

Sherrie Robinson told Global News that when parents first received a letter notifying them there had been an exposure, they felt there weren’t nearly enough details.

She said parents were left wondering if they should get their kids tested — including one mom, who fibbed to get her asymptomatic daughter tested.

“And if that was my kid, I’d be doing the same thing. And thank god she did, because it ended up being a positive,” she said.

Click to play video 'Dr. Bonnie Henry on B.C. school exposures' Dr. Bonnie Henry on B.C. school exposures
Dr. Bonnie Henry on B.C. school exposures – Sep 24, 2020

Parents have shared among themselves positive results in seven out of 15 children in one Grade 2 class — and they say some family members are getting sick, too.

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Robinson said she’s aware of three Caulfeild moms, a grandparent and a sibling at another school who’ve tested positive for the coronavirus.

The province said Monday there have been 50 exposures at B.C. schools, but Henry said that there has not been widespread transmission.

“We need to recognize that our goal, our overriding goal is to ensure that kids are safely in school,” she said. “What we have seen and what we continue to see are very low-risk exposure events and very few, if any, transmission events in schools.”

During a Monday press briefing, Henry said that all exposure events at schools are being posted and it is important to be careful about what information is made public.

“We do know that some students and parents and teachers have shared the information and sometimes that is perfectly appropriate for them to do,” he said.

“But we also know that some students and teachers and staff who have shared information have been the recipient of nasty notes and bad behaviour. And that makes people very concerned and afraid to share their information and in many cases, reluctant to go for testing or to engage and let people know what’s going on.”

— With files from Simon Little

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