Parents alerted that COVID-19 patients attended 2 Surrey schools
Published Monday, March 9, 2020 6:55AM PDT Last Updated Monday, March 9, 2020 7:31PM PDT
VANCOUVER -- Students and staff at two schools in Surrey are being reassured they are at low risk to catch COVID-19 after two incidents involving people with now-confirmed cases of the virus were inside the schools.
A letter was sent to parents and guardians of students at Serpentine Elementary School on Sunday, advising them someone now diagnosed with the virus had been inside the school gym as part of a community-use rental.
The patient, who is not a student at Serpentine Elementary, was in the school last weekend, but the district wasn’t notified until this weekend.
Still, the Surrey School District said health officials had deemed the risk to others at the school as low. It noted the virus is spread by droplets, which require close contact with saliva or mucous from the mouth, nose or throat of an infected person — and said people not in direct contact with the infected person are at low risk.
"Fraser Health did carefully consider the situation, and because this individual had no direct contact with a member of our school community, they have deemed the risk to be low to our school,” said district spokesperson Ritinder Matthew. “But we have been cleaning the schools according to the guidelines that were released by the provincial health officer about a month ago.”
A deep clean was done at the school over the weekend in preparation for class to resume on Monday morning. Part of that included disinfecting "high-touch areas" like light switches, chairs, tables and desks. Matthew said cleaning had already been pretty aggressive since the outbreak started.
Parents and guardians at Sullivan Heights Secondary School also received a letter from Fraser Health on Sunday informing them someone with a now-confirmed case of COVID-19 is a member of the school community.
It’s not known if it’s a student or staff member, but health officials said the risk at Sullivan Heights is low as well because the patient wasn't showing symptoms while at school.
“The person was asymptomatic during their time at the school; therefore, the risk to the school population is minimal,” the letter says. “There is no evidence that novel coronavirus is transmitted via asymptomatic individuals and the risk so low for the staff and students at Sullivan Heights.”
Rachael Wadman decided to keep her 14-year-old daughter home from Sullivan Heights for the rest of the week leading up to spring break.
“When I read the letter, I was quite concerned how vague it was. It didn’t really specify much information,” Wadman told CTV News. “They could have just closed down the school for the week. I think that would have been better, than to keep parents all guessing and worried.”
Students attending class Monday said many of their peers made the choice to stay home and classes were nearly empty.
Students Gurnoor Malhi and Gurneet Bains, both 17 and in their graduating year, brought Lysol wipes, gloves, and hand sanitizer to class.
“Now we’re just scared of touching the tables or anything. Drinking water from the fountain, we’re not even going close to that,” Malhi said.
“It’s crazy, you know, like you wouldn’t really expect it to come all the way to your school.” Bains said.
Grade 12 student Tommy Tran told CTV News he felt uncomfortable in the building, despite wearing gloves and a mask.
“Just started getting really paranoid," Tran said. "I’m not trying to get sick, especially with elderly people in my family and younger siblings."
Nationwide, there have been more than 70 confirmed cases of COVID-19. As of Monday morning, 34 cases were confirmed in Ontario, four in Quebec and four in Alberta.