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Interior Health defends handling of COVID-19 school exposures

Two more positive cases of COVID-19 were announced at Kelowna Secondary School over the weekend. It's one of more than a dozen Okanagan schools were COVID-19 exposures have been identified. Global News

Interior Health’s Chief Medical Health Officer is defending the health authority’s handling of COVID-19 exposures at schools.

Dr. Albert de Villiers said school plans to deal with the exposures are good, those impacted are contacted directly, and parents should not be worried.

After COVID-19 exposures at more than a dozen Okanagan schools, there have been concerns raised about the lack of information about the numbers of positive cases at a given school.

A parent at Kelowna Secondary School told Global News she’d like more information about the numbers of cases at that school so she can better determine if she should sent her child to class.

Click to play video: 'Central Okanagan Teacher’s Association president concerned over rising exposure cases in local schools' Central Okanagan Teacher’s Association president concerned over rising exposure cases in local schools
Central Okanagan Teacher’s Association president concerned over rising exposure cases in local schools – Nov 12, 2020

Interior Health has said it won’t identify school case numbers in real time, unless there is an outbreak declared, due to privacy concerns.

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In an interview Tuesday, Dr. de Villiers defended the current system of notifying parents and students.

Read more: Parent concerns grow as cases of COVID-19 climb at Kelowna Secondary School

“I don’t think parents should be worried about it. If you haven’t been contacted by public health, your child hasn’t been a close contact,” he said.

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Dr. de Villiers said at the majority of schools, where outbreaks have not been declared, the number of cases is small and those impacted haven’t contracted the virus at school.

“It might seem through the rumour mill that there are more cases than there are. It is small clusters within the school that don’t come from the school,” he said.

“It’s kids that go to either functions or social events outside of the school and then bring it in, but we haven’t seen any spread within the school.”

Click to play video: '“They are not really addressing the situation at KSS as seriously as it is,” parents grow increasingly concerned as more COVID cases are announced at Kelowna Secondary School.' “They are not really addressing the situation at KSS as seriously as it is,” parents grow increasingly concerned as more COVID cases are announced at Kelowna Secondary School.
“They are not really addressing the situation at KSS as seriously as it is,” parents grow increasingly concerned as more COVID cases are announced at Kelowna Secondary School – Nov 16, 2020

The head of the Central Okanagan Teachers’ Association, the local teachers union, has suggested mandatory masks in classrooms and more space for physical distancing in high schools could enhance safety.

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However, de Villiers said the current system in place in schools is working well.

There have been COVID-19 exposures at more than at 16 Okanagan schools this fall, 14 of them in Kelowna.

— with files from Klaudia Van Emmerik and Shelby Thom

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