Teachers call on province to release more info on COVID-19 in schools as positive cases identified in Surrey
VANCOUVER -- Some positive COVID-19 cases have now been identified in connection with a couple of schools in the Fraser Health region that had an exposure to a more transmissible variant of the virus. However, it’s not yet known if the new cases are infected with the B.1.7.7 variant as well.
Out of seven schools in the Fraser Health region that reported recent exposures to the variant initially discovered in the U.K., additional testing has turned up six positive COVID-19 cases at two of them, both in Surrey: Ecole Woodward Hill Elementary, and Surrey Traditional Elementary.
Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry said Thursday it takes time to do the genome sequencing that determines the presence of a variant.
“We do not yet know...so that’s five students and one staff person,” she said. “Fraser Health is continuing to work with the Surrey School Board and to do that additional testing, and we’ll have more information as they investigation continues.”
The news comes as teachers call for more transparency around school exposures and cases.
BC Teachers' Federation president Teri Mooring wants the government to make more information publicly available about exposures, cases, and transmission at schools.
“Ontario, Quebec, Manitoba, Alberta provide the information that we’ve been requesting since the beginning of the school year. And so it’s time,” she said. “Releasing provincial data doesn’t impact on personal privacy at all. And quite frankly, personal privacy is being used as an excuse not to provide data.”
According to WorksafeBC, 123 COVID-19 related claims have been allowed from the education sector to date, which is the highest number next to health care.
The WorksafeBC website stated: “Claims are allowed when the evidence is sufficient to establish the worker has COVID-19 and the risk in the workplace was significantly higher than the ordinary exposure risk.”
The workers with the highest number of allowed claims from the education sector so far have been elementary school teachers, at 67. Secondary school teachers are next with 22, followed by teacher’s assistants at 21.
Mooring said the teacher’s union was “alarmed” to see the numbers, but added it’s “only part of the picture."
“I think the question is why is it that we’re not getting a more clear picture based on data from the provincial health office and the provincial government?” she said. “We hear consistently that the transmission numbers are low, with no verification based on data, and we’re sort of beyond the point of just you know, sort of the health authority and government saying, trust us.”
It’s unclear at this point how the six new positive cases identified in Surrey are divided between the two schools.