Comox Valley parents eager for COVID-19 school exposure notification revamp


Island Health is reporting several new clusters of COVID-19 cases at schools on Vancouver Island.

Pleasant Valley Elementary in Nanaimo, Ecole Poirier Elementary in Sooke, Brooklyn Elementary in the Comox Valley, EJ Dunn in Port Alberni and Tansor Elementary in Duncan have all reported clusters in recent days.

The exposure/cluster dates listed at Pleasant Valley Elementary are Sept. 20, 21 and 22.  The dates listed for Ecole Poirier Elementary are Sept. 16, 17, 20, 21, and 22. Island Health says the dates for Brooklyn Elementary are Sept. 15, 16, 17, 20, and 21, the same as EJ Dunn in Port Alberni. Tansor Elementary exposure dates are Sept. 20 and 21.

Island Health defines a cluster as two or more confirmed cases within a 14-day period.

It comes as parents call for a better COVID-19 notification system and the province says one is on the way.

“I wasn’t surprised. I mean it’s in the valley so it was just a matter of time really,” said Gwen Elder, a mother of three children at Brooklyn Elementary where one of the clusters is located.

Elder says what is disappointing though is the more limited public notifications about COVID-19 being at the school.

Last year, the province was requiring health authorities to notify the public of each school exposure but this year they’ve just been posting when clusters occur.

This weekend Brooklyn Elementary was listed on Island Health’s cluster list six days after the citizen-organized BC School Covid Tracker first listed the school as having experienced an extended COVID-19 exposure.

“I think it’s more important to have information than not. Then you can know what to do with it and make choices. If you don’t know that there’s an exposure you might choose differently to keep your kids at home or send them,” said Elder.

This past week, Dr. Bonnie Henry, the provincial health officer, announced the school notification system would be revamped.

“We’ve heard that and we’ve asked our team to get together right now to make sure that we can notify schools in a timely, less intrusive, and more sustainable way and that parents will have that access to that information rapidly,” said Henry during her Sept. 21 briefing.

The Williams family in the Comox Valley homeschooled their two children for a year and then decided to send them back to school this year

“But now we know less than we did before and it seems like there’s less happening in terms of hand-sanitizing and things like that so it’s worrisome as parents,” said Andrea Martin, mother of Williams children.

Martin is among those looking forward to more timely school notifications, a plan that’s expected to be explained by B.C.’s top doctor this week.

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Kendall HansonKendall Hanson

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