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New data shows COVID-19 transmission happened in 21 Coquitlam area schools

Fraser Health started tracking COVID-19 clusters in January and revealed the information this week; meanwhile, five secondary schools in Coquitlam, Port Coquitlam and Port Moody recently had virus exposures

New information coming to light this week shows COVID-19 transmission happened in Coquitlam area schools 21 times over a two-month period.

Fraser Health recently posted data on its website that shows there were 19 clusters in School District 43 between Jan. 1 and March 7, and two at Tri-City independent schools, affecting 46 people.

Although the information was collected before the Tri-Cities' huge post-spring-break spike, the data underscores teachers' concern at the time that Fraser Health needed to do more to protect staff and students.

In January, Coquitlam teachers signed a letter calling on Fraser Health to “intensify” their efforts during the COVID-19 pandemic. It wasn't until April that teachers were given priority for shots. 

The COVID-19 school cluster and transmission analysis indicates the Tri-City clusters were not variants of concern, however, and half of the infections were transmitted between students, while most of the cases were brought in from the household or community.

In all, Fraser Health examined 2,049 school-acquired cases in its health region, which includes Coquitlam, Port Coquitlam and Port Moody as well as Surrey, a major hot spot for COVID-19.

Here’s what the data revealed:

• 267 cases examined (13.0%) likely or possibly acquired the virus from school (among confirmed clusters. However, 333 are suspect; the health region was unable to rule out in-school acquisition) 

• 179 (67.0%) led to no household or community transmission

• 88 (33.0%) led to household and/or community transmission

While none of the Tri-City clusters were found to be variants of concern, Fraser Health noted that the study was done just as the new variants were being flagged in B.C.

A school “cluster” indicates possible school-based transmission with two or more lab-confirmed cases of COVID-19 attending school while infectious. 

There were no outbreaks in Tri-City schools.

Meanwhile, COVID-19 continues to hit local schools, especially secondary schools, as five were flagged for exposures in recent days.

And one school in Coquitlam had someone who tested positive on school grounds every day, according to the Fraser Health school exposure page.

Contact tracing and letters are going out to families at Gleneagle secondary for exposures May 3 to 7, while another Coquitlam school, Dr. Charles Best, had exposures on May 5, 6 and 7.

Port Moody secondary, meanwhile, had a case on May 3, and in Port Coquitlam, Terry Fox secondary had exposures May 3 to 6 while Riverside secondary had an exposure May 3.

Another Coquitlam school — Pinetree Way elementary — also had an exposure on May 5 and 6.

This information was updated to the Fraser Health website Friday, May 14.

Still, the school exposures notices are down substantially from previous weeks as Tri-Cities’ mid-April virus spike seems to be diminishing.

Last week, (May 2 to 8), there were 167 Tri-City residents who tested positive for COVID-19, according to the BC Centre for Disease Control, a 40% percent drop over the previous week when there were 277 cases. In mid-April there were as many as 514 coronavirus cases in one week.