COVID-19 outbreak declared at Maple Ridge Christian School

Click to play video: 'British Columbia grapples with increase in COVID-19 cases among children'
British Columbia grapples with increase in COVID-19 cases among children
The Maple Ridge Christian School became the latest B.C. school to face a COVID-19 outbreak, Friday, with 32 students and staff coming down with the virus. It's the latest in a growing number of cases among children. Richard Zussman reports. – Sep 24, 2021

Health officials have declared a COVID-19 outbreak at a private Christian school in Maple Ridge.

In a Friday afternoon media release, Fraser Health said 32 positive cases had been diagnosed in staff and students at Maple Ridge Christian School.

Fraser Health medical health officer Dr. Ariella Zbar said the cases were “predominantly” among students. The outbreak was concentrated among students in Kindergarten through Grade 5, though official were monitoring upper grades, she said.

The health authority said the school would continue with in-person learning for students in grades 6 to 12 while it worked with the school on case and contact management.

Maple Ridge Christian School said in a statement that students from Kindergarten to Grade 5 would switch to online learning, with a return to classes on Oct. 12.

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Zbar said safety protocols for students Grade 6 and up that will continue in-person learning were under review as of Friday.

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She said teachers at the school had a high vaccination rate, but that isolation or monitoring letters would be sent to any staff members necessary.

Asked why the outbreak had not been declared earlier, Zbar said there is no set number for what constitutes an “outbreak,” and that early on many of the cases had been contained to specific family groups.

“Once we were starting to see additional spread outside of those household groupings — and there were a few of those involved — as well as the speed at which the numbers started to rise, and not just the sheer number of it but at the speed at which it rose and how it was clustered among these select grades and seemed to cross from one to another, that’s what really prompted the outbreak declaration,” she said.

Click to play video: 'COVID-19 outbreak forces closure of Chilliwack elementary school'
COVID-19 outbreak forces closure of Chilliwack elementary school

It comes just days after another elementary school in Chilliwack was forced to “pause” in-person learning, due to an outbreak involving at least 20 staff and students.

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Children at Promontory Elementary have been told to switch to online learning until at least Oct. 4.

In the wake of that outbreak, the BC Teachers Federation again called on the province to enhance safety measures at schools, including implementing masks for younger children.

The union also wants the province to develop a firm protocol for rapidly moving from in-person to online learning in the case of an outbreak.

The number of COVID-19 cases involving children has been steadily climbing in recent weeks, and has topped 100 in each of the last three reporting days in B.C.

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