Class asked to self-isolate after COVID-19 exposure at Victoria elementary school

An entire class is isolating after a COVID-19 exposure at a Victoria elementary school.

The exposure at Sir James Douglas Elementary, which has about 450 students, occurred on Nov. 23.

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Notifications of exposures are posted by the health authority when a single person with lab-confirmed COVID-19 infection attends a school during their infectious period.

Island Health is conducting contact tracing and any close contacts of the infected person will be contacted.

It is the third school in the capital region to have a COVID-19 exposure in the past two weeks. The other two are Lakeview Christian School in Saanich and the Victoria School for Ideal Education.

Winona Waldron, president of the Greater Victoria Teachers’ Association, expects the most recent case will increase anxiety around the potential for COVID-19 transmissions in schools.

“I think with this first public school situation, I think people’s anxiety will rise,” she said. “I think we’ll see a lot more [wearing masks in classrooms] now that we have a confirmed case where a class has had to self-isolate.”

Posters encouraging students to wear masks in class were sent by the B.C. Teachers Federation to teachers late last week. The posters say: “In this class, please wear a mask” and: “Masks help keep us all safe. They also show kindness and respect. Some people can’t wear masks and that’s OK too. Let’s look after each other while we learn together.”

The posters have begun going up in classrooms and there’s growing adoption of mask wearing in the classroom, said Waldron, who has been calling for full-time mandatory mask use in schools. She says it is incomprehensible to expect their use in stores and public buildings but not have the same protections for teachers.

Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry has said school children do not need to wear masks at their desks in the classroom, although they are expected to wear them in some common areas.

Henry maintains masks are a helpful additional layer of protection when physical distancing isn’t always possible, but they should be used on top of regular handwashing and staying home when sick.

Other Island schools with recent exposures include Kwalicum Secondary School in Qualicum Beach, Frank J. Ney Elementary in Nanaimo, Ladysmith Secondary School, and Alberni District Secondary School.

A cluster — when there are two or more people with confirmed cases at a school — has been reported at Randerson Ridge Elementary school in Nanaimo.

Henry has put in place several orders and restrictions to bring down COVID-19 transmissions. The idea is to stop social gatherings and slow transmissions in this second wave to allow school and essential businesses to remain open.

The proportion of cases in school-aged children remains low and transmission of the virus in schools is very rare, according to school officials.

A list of school exposures can be found on the Island Health website at https://www.islandhealth.ca/learn-about-health/covid-19/exposures-schools

ceharnett@timescolonist.com

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