A person who attended Elphinstone Secondary School in Gibsons in early January has tested positive for COVID-19.
The member of the school community attended the high school Jan. 7 and Jan. 11, according to a letter from superintendent Patrick Bocking circulated to district staff and the Elphinstone community on Jan. 14.
As of Jan. 15, the exposure event has not been reported on Vancouver Coastal Health’s “exposures in schools” webpage.
A Jan. 14 letter by Vancouver Coastal Health (VCH) to members the school community has been circulating on social media, however, indicating the exposure was identified in two learning groups: Math 9-1 and Enviro 9/Debate 9.
It says if a letter recipient doesn’t receive a call from Public Health their risk of exposure is considered “very low and we do not recommend that you isolate at this time.” The letter also recommends self-monitoring for signs of illness until Jan. 25.
Bocking told Coast Reporter through email he is aware the VCH letter has been shared through social media.
This marks the first exposure event at School District No. 46 (SD46), according to Bocking, who said in his Jan. 14 message that people deemed contacts have been notified by VCH contact tracers.
In a follow-up email, Bocking told Coast Reporter an exposure event “doesn't mean that the virus was transmitted to anyone and only ‘close contacts’ will be asked by VCH to self isolate.”
“We are confident that our students continue to be learning in schools that are safe especially with our strict protocols as per the Ministry of Health direction.”
The health authority says not every positive COVID-19 case in a school leads to an exposure, defined as a person with COVID-19 attending a school during the infectious period and at risk of transmitting the disease.
In exposure cases, “Public Health investigates and coordinates with the school to ensure that all contacts are notified and provided with appropriate instructions.”
According to Bocking, “all public health data confirms that schools are very safe places during this pandemic, particularly on the Sunshine Coast where community COVID rates [are] present, but much lower than other regions.”
VCH released data Thursday indicating since schools opened last September, the health authority hasn’t recorded “a significant increase in cases among school-aged children relative to other groups.”
Between Sept. 10, 2020 and Dec. 18 about 700 students and staff in the VCH region have tested positive for COVID-19 and in more than 90 per cent of those cases no transmission resulted from the exposure, according to VCH.
“The vast majority of affected students and staff contracted the virus at home or in social circumstances outside of school and links to schools were determined through contact tracing.”
Children aged five to 17 years old accounted for six per cent of COVID-19 cases in the health authority since the start of the pandemic, but represent 10 percent of its population.
For more information:
VCH School Exposure webpage: http://www.vch.ca/covid-19/school-exposures.
SD46’s COVID-19 webpage: https://sd46.bc.ca/families-and-students/education-during-covid-19-pandemic-resources-supports/