A second Coquitlam elementary school has been flagged for a COVID-19 exposure in the first week of school of the new year.
Fraser Health added Cedar Drive elementary in Port Coquitlam to its coronavirus exposure portal Saturday, indicating a school exposure on Jan. 4. This is not the first time the school has reported a COVID-19 exposure — in October, Cedar Drive reported exposures across three days.
Earlier this week, Meadowbrook elementary in Coquitlam was flagged for COVID-19 exposures over two days: Jan. 4 and 5.
No other schools across School District 43 are under active investigation for a virus exposure at this time.
TEACHERS CALL FOR CHANGES
Across SD43, which includes Coquitlam, Port Coquitlam, Port Moody and Anmore, some 32,000 students were expected to return to classrooms this week, although hundreds of mostly elementary school children were still transitioning last fall because of concerns about returning to the classroom.
The return has come with some trepidation for teachers, prompting them to sign on to a gathering campaign for safer classrooms and faster reporting of school COVID-19 exposures.
Coquitlam Teachers' Association president Ken Christensen is a signatory to a letter along with 11 local presidents from school districts across the Lower Mainland, calling on Fraser Health to “intensify” their efforts during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“This week, tens of thousands of public school employees and hundreds of thousands of public school students returned to school after a two-week winter break. Over the break, families were able to limit their exposure to COVID-19, but upon the re-opening of schools on January 4, they once again face the daily risk of exposure to the coronavirus,” the letter states.
They want Fraser Health to “provide a clear definition and rationale for the threshold to declare an outbreak in a school,” after several schools reported dozens of exposures prior to winter break, including Surrey, which had 50 cases at one school.
Teachers are also asking for improvements to ensure there is “timely” contact tracing by the Fraser Health Authority because some exposure notices arrive near the end of the two-week monitoring period — too late to help anyone.
Also on their wish list: reduced density in schools and classrooms to enable physical distancing, mandatory mask use in all indoor spaces, and insurances they will be prioritized to receive vaccinations as soon as possible.
“Too many people in our schools feel unsafe. In addition, parents are worried about the health of their children and COVID-19 entering their homes because of transmission at school. More needs to be done to improve preventative measures. Many schools in the Fraser Health region are not safe enough and the status quo is unacceptable,” the letter states.
EXPOSURE, CLUSTER OR OUTBREAK?
According to the health authority, a school “exposure” usually indicates a single person with a lab-confirmed COVID-19 infection attended school during their infectious period.
A school “cluster,” on the other hand, indicates possible school-based transmission with two or more lab-confirmed cases of COVID-19 attending school while infectious, and an “outbreak” indicates “multiple individuals with lab-confirmed COVID-19 infection” and that “transmission is likely widespread.”
There have been no clusters or outbreaks in School District 43 since school resumed in September.
To date, 52 schools across the Tri-Cities — including a handful of private schools — have been flagged for at least COVID-19 exposure notification since September 2020.
— With files from Diane Strandberg