Times Colonist

Class asked to self-isolate after COVID-19 exposure at Victoria elementary school


An entire class is isolating after a COVID-19 exposure at a Victoria elementary school.

The exposure at Sir James Douglas Elementary in Fairfield, which has about 450 students, occurred on Nov. 23.

Notificati­ons of exposures are posted by the health authority when a single person with a labconfirm­ed COVID-19 infection attends a school during their infectious period.

Island Health is conducting contact tracing and any close contacts of the infected person will be contacted.

It’s the third school in the capital region to report a COVID-19 exposure in the past two weeks. Previous exposures were reported at Lakeview Christian School in Saanich and the Victoria School for Ideal Education.

Winona Waldron, president of the Greater Victoria Teachers’ Associatio­n, says she expects the most recent case, the first in a public school, will result in many more students wearing masks in classrooms.

Posters encouragin­g students to wear masks in class were sent by the B.C. Teachers Federation to teachers late last week.

The posters have begun going up in classrooms and there’s growing adoption of mask wearing in the classroom, said Waldron, who has been calling for full-time mandatory mask use in schools

Provincial health officer Dr.

Bonnie Henry has said school children do not need to wear masks at their desks, although they are expected to wear them in some common areas.

Other Island schools with recent exposures include Kwalicum Secondary School in Qualicum Beach, Frank J. Ney Elementary in Nanaimo, Ladysmith Secondary School and Alberni District Secondary School.

A cluster — when there are two or more people with confirmed cases at a school — has been reported at Randerson Ridge Elementary school in Nanaimo.

The proportion of cases in school-aged children remains low and transmissi­on of the virus in schools is very rare, according to school officials.

Meanwhile, a confirmed COVID-19 case in the Ministry of Health building at 1515 Blanshard St. caused a stir when only potential contacts of the case and those on the same floor were notified, some days afterwards.

On Wednesday, Philip Twyford, assistant deputy health minister, sent a memo to all staff acknowledg­ing employees on all floors of the building were not told about the case, and promising improved communicat­ion.

Twyford said in the memo that when the confirmed case was identified late last week on the second floor of the building, additional cleaning was implemente­d and public health officials were informed for contact tracing.

“Since this occurrence, we have heard from staff about the impact of notifying only staff located on the second floor,” he wrote. “This has been a huge learning for us. We appreciate your feedback and we will be taking a broader communicat­ion approach should this happen again.”

Public health will directly contact anyone identified as a close contact of someone who has tested positive and advise self isolation, said Twyford in the memo. Not hearing from a public health official means the risk of transmissi­on is low and no further notificati­ons or actions are required, he said, adding the ministry must strike a balance between transparen­cy and protecting a person’s identity.

The B.C. Public Service does not publicly release confidenti­al employee health informatio­n, but said it is aware of reports that a Ministry of Health employee tested positive for COVID-19.

A Health Ministry spokeswoma­n said there’s little interactio­n between employees on the various floors of the Blanshard building and it is “not considered a public building — there are controls in place of who goes in who goes out.”

For that reason, a public announceme­nt of the case was not made and it was not considered an “outbreak.”

A list of school exposures can be found on the Island Health website at https://www.islandheal­th.ca/learn-about-health/ covid-19/exposures-schools ceharnett@timescolon­ist.com

 ?? DARREN STONE, TIMES COLONIST ?? Sir James Douglas Elementary School.
DARREN STONE, TIMES COLONIST Sir James Douglas Elementary School.

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