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Island Health warns of potential COVID-19 spike in schools

Island Health is expecting a spike in Covid-19 cases in schools, and is asking parents and staff to stay vigilant

In a letter to families and staff, the health authority says many of the most recent new cases have reported higher numbers of social contacts and events while infectious.

“Accordingly, we are now seeing the number of children with coronavirus on the rise. This past few weeks may have been quiet as schools have been heading into or returning from spring break,” the letter reads.

“However, all signs indicate that there will be significant numbers of exposures at schools in the weeks to come.”

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The health authority is asking parents that, if their child has even mild symptoms, do not have them attend school, “and make an appointment to get your child and any other symptomatic family members tested, especially if they have travelled during spring break.”

Call 1-844-901-8442 (daily 8:30am to 8:00pm) to book an appointment for a COVID test.

A portion of Island Health letter to families, staff.

Staff, parents and students are also encouraged to remember: 

  • Hand washing, physical distancing and mask-wearing are important measures to continue to decrease transmission.
  • Masks are not required for all children at school during this time but may add an additional layer of prevention against transmission. If children are able to wear a mask, consider the use of masks as an additional measure at any time, including while at school.
  • Students and staff should also consider continuing to wear masks whenever indoors, even if seated apart from others in the same room or outdoors but in close proximity to others.
  • Stay home if unwell. Arrange testing, and do not return to school until symptoms have resolved.
  • Reduce the number of social contacts and activities to reduce the likelihood of transmission.
  • Continue to promote adherence to the provincial public health orders around indoor and outdoor social gatherings and avoiding non-essential travel.

When a case is identified in a school-age child who attends school while they are infectious, the school and public health work to notify and isolate contacts of the case for 14 days.

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Public Health recommends a case and their close contacts must isolate to decrease transmission of the virus to friends and family. 

The letter says, to respond to the increased number of exposures in the schools in our community, “the school districts have undertaken”:

  • Enhanced cleaning of school environments and strengthening signage and guidance in schools to prompt distancing.
  • Adoption of the new February 4th, 2021 guidance for schools from the B.C. Centre for Disease Control.
  • Enhanced symptom monitoring, absenteeism reviews, and heightened public health measures, including offering testing to school community members, where appropriate.

“Public health urges community members to decrease social contacts and remain vigilant to illness. It is important to get children tested if they are not feeling well, even with mild illness,” the letter says. 

“Children will often have only mild coronavirus illness, and symptoms that may be overlooked. Please consider having your child tested if their symptoms are new.

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“We know that schools offer very significant health and wellness benefits, physically, socially, and emotionally. We are working hard to ensure school environments remain COVID safe, to keep Island children in school. Thank you for doing your part to ensure our school community has fewer school exposures by having your child tested if newly symptomatic, and by limiting your social contacts,” it continues.

The school district superintendents and the school leadership teams have been working closer than ever with Public Health to respond to the increased number of school exposures. The Vancouver Island COVID-19 Rapid Response Team has been positioned to better prepare Island School Districts to respond to the pressures of the pandemic, and to better protect the school environments and ensure (the) sustainability of the educational system in the face of growing coronavirus rates.”

This afternoon, the province announced a number of new health restrictions, one of which impacts schools across B.C.

Public health guidance for schools has also been amended to support and encourage students down to Grade 4 to wear masks while at school.

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