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Parents advised of COVID-19 exposures at two Sea to Sky schools

Signal Hill Elementary, Mamquam Elementary added to exposure list
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Two Sea to Sky schools have had COVID-19 exposures. 

Vancouver Coastal Health (VCH) has listed Signal Hill Elementary in Pemberton and Mamquam Elementary in Squamish on its school exposure list

Parents at Signal Hill received a letter from the Sea to Sky School District on Thursday, Sept. 24, indicating that a member of the school community had tested positive for the virus and are at home isolating. 

The letter goes on to say VCH is performing contact tracing, will determine if anyone has been in contact with that person during their infectious period, and will contact anyone who needs further instruction.

“If you are not contacted by VCH, it has been determined that your child is not at risk for developing COVID-19,” the letter said.

The VCH school exposure list indicates the potential exposure happened on Sept. 21.

At Mamquam Elementary the potential exposures occurred on Sept. 11, 16, 17, and 18. 

The Sea to Sky School District has not returned requests from Pique for comment. 

Since students returned to school earlier this month, there has been confusion around whether school exposures would be listed on the VCH website. While provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry has said that parents would be informed of exposures at schools, Dr. Mark Lysyshyn, deputy medical health officer for VCH, said in an interview with the North Shore News on Wednesday, Sept. 23, that VCH will only list schools where it’s not possible to notify those who came in close contact with a person who tested positive for the virus.  

The concern, he said, was students could be identified and subjected to the stigma of having the virus.

However, Dr. Patricia Daly, VCH’s chief medical health officer and Henry, issued a statement on Thursday, saying, “All notifications to school administrators—including school exposure and outbreaks—are posted to the VCH school exposure webpage…”

Meanwhile, Lisa McCullough, superintendent of the Sea to Sky School district, sent a letter to parents on Sept. 23 to clarify the steps the district and health authority take after a school exposure. In the letter, she also told parents not to share any information regarding cases at their schools.

“It is also critically important that all members of the school district community and the parents of our students respect the privacy rights of every individual,” the letter said. “This means that individual members of our school community and/or parents should not provide any public statements or communications about potential or confirmed COVID-19 cases, unless directed to do so by VCH.”

In the meantime, cases of COVID-19 for kids under 19 have continued to grow in the province since schools reopened, according to information from the B.C. Centre for Disease Control.

The total number of cases for kids under 10 from Jan. 1 to Aug. 27—before schools reopened—was 127 with two hospitalizations. For that same timeframe in 10-to-19-year-olds that number was 248 with two hospitalized.

Jump to Sept. 24, and an additional 144 kids under 10 have had confirmed cases for a total of 271 since Jan. 1 with an additional two hospitalizations.

In the 10-to-19 age group that has increased by 220 for a total of 468 with no additional hospitalizations.

Both groups have not seen any ICU cases or deaths.    

"We ... now have approximately 30 school notifications, exposure events, that have happened across the province, and that is not surprising to me," Henry said during a press conference on Thursday. "We have over 2,000 schools around the province and with millions of students going back to school over the last two weeks, this is to be expected. We've had no outbreaks in our school system yet, but we are monitoring and health authorities, public health is there for every single school and we will continue to be there as we move through this pandemic."