Two New Westminster schools saw COVID-19 exposures in the first full week of classes.
COVID-19 exposures have been reported at Fraser River Middle School and New Westminster Secondary School. In both cases, notifications sent to families say that a “member of the school community” has tested positive for COVID-19, and that person was in each case at the school on Sept. 15, 16 and 17.
Both exposures are now also listed on the Fraser Health school exposures website.
The New Westminster school district has confirmed that both the affected people are currently self-isolating at home, with support from Fraser Health public health teams.
"The safety and well-being of students, families and staff remains our highest priority. Both schools notified - New Westminster Secondary School and Fraser River Middle School – will continue to implement the strict health and safety protocols and procedures that are in place so children and staff can continue to attend school as safely as possible," said a statement from the school district on Tuesday morning.
"Our schools and school district will continue to work closely with Fraser Health Authority to determine if any additional actions are required and to support ongoing communication to our school community."
Fraser Health is now undertaking contact tracing to determine which, if any, other members of the school community were in contact with the person who tested positive for COVID-19. The health authority then determines if anyone was in contact with that person while they were potentially infectious, and whether any of those contacts are defined as “close contacts” who would be required to self-isolate.
That means that students or families who may be affected will be contacted directly by Fraser Health with advice on next steps. Letters sent to parents from the school principals note that, if Fraser Health does not contact your family, it means that your child has been determined to be not at risk of developing COVID-19.
Students should continue to attend school while contact tracing is underway. Families are reminded to continue daily health checks to monitor students for illness before heading to school.
Both the New Westminster school district and Fraser Health note that, for privacy reasons, no specific details of the COVID-19 exposure can be provided, other than the basic information already issued.
Families should also note that an “exposure” does not mean the affected person picked up the infection at school.
The Fraser Health website notes that an “exposure” means the case involves a single person with a lab-confirmed COVID-19 infection who attended school during their infectious period.
Two other levels of notification are also possible but have not been issued in these two cases. A “cluster” would denote two or more people with lab-confirmed COVID-19 infections who attended school during the infectious period; the cases may be linked to school-based transmission.
An “outbreak,” meanwhile, would indicate multiple people with lab-confirmed COVID-19 infection when transmission is likely widespread within the school setting.
In all of those cases, public health takes charge of investigating the case and conducting contact tracing.
HERE'S WHAT HAPPENS WHEN A COVID-19 CASE IS REPORTED IN A SCHOOL
The school district has issued this step-by-step guide to what happened in these two cases and what will happen again in the event another COVID-19 case arises.
- Fraser Health notified the district of the two cases and provided the dates to be aware of.
- The district connected Fraser Health with the school as part of the contact tracing process.
- An “early notification letter” was sent to every staff member and every family at each of the two named schools.
- Fraser Health is continuing to do their work contract tracing, as only they can determine who is a close contact.
- The district and schools will work with Fraser Health to support any communication that might be necessary.
- Fraser Health will follow up directly with families if they determine anyone needs to self-monitor or self-isolate.
- If families at the named schools are not contacted by the Fraser Health Authority, it has been determined that your child is not at risk.
- All school exposures will be tracked and are available, in our region, at this site: https://www.fraserhealth.ca/health-topics-a-to-z/coronavirus/school-notifications#.X2ktuWhKiUk