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  • Tracy Sherlock

50 covid-19 cases hit one Surrey school before winter break

One Surrey, B.C. school had close to 50 covid-19 cases. Photo: Wikimedia.

As students get ready to head back to class this week, news of a significant number of cases at one Surrey school has emerged.

There were close to 50 cases of covid-19 linked to five classes at Earl Marriott secondary school in the days before school shut down for the winter break, Surrey schools superintendent Jordan Tinney wrote in a letter to the school community posted to twitter.

The B.C. Teachers’ Federation retweeted the letter, saying “many teachers and parents, especially in communities with high transmission rates, are rightly worried about going back into classrooms. The #bced restart plan needs to be reviewed, we need a better mask mandate, we need reduced density in schools, and we need more data.”

Tinney, in his letter to parents and teachers, said everyone should be wearing a mask at school, all the time.

“We encourage the wearing of masks at all times for all people particularly in our large secondary schools when you cannot maintain physical distancing. Wearing a mask is not a replacement for trying to maintain physical distancing to the greatest extend possible,” Tinney wrote in the letter, dated Jan. 3, 2021.

Surrey is the hardest hit school district for covid-19 cases. In December, teachers there begged provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry to make masks mandatory and to make classes smaller to allow physical distancing.

BCTF president Teri Mooring said teachers have called for a review of the school restart plan.

“We feel this is the appropriate time for such a review and we met with the Minister and ministry staff over the winter break to outline this and our other calls for safer schools,” Mooring said on twitter.

A new variant of covid-19 that is said to be more transmissible and that has caused a surge in cases in England, was first detected in B.C. in December. It’s unknown, but expected, that there will be other cases of this new variant in B.C. as it has been found in many countries and parts of the United States.

Scientists in England are investigating whether children are more susceptible to the new variant and there are hints they could be, the BBC reported.

Dr. Henry gave some updated school covid-19 statistics on Dec. 23, showing more than 600 school-aged children and staff tested positive for covid-19 in Vancouver Coastal Health region. Of those, 76 per cent were students and 24 per cent were staff, Dr. Henry’s slides show.

Nonetheless, Dr. Henry says most of the cases were contracted outside of school, although 22 per cent of cases in B.C. are of unknown origin and about 14 per cent at any given time have “pending/missing” reported as the transmission source.

On Dec. 29, with case numbers trending down, Dr. Henry said that could be because fewer people were going for testing. Another possibility is that numbers were trending down because schools were closed. By Monday, Jan. 4, new numbers will be released, but those will reflect whether people gathered for Christmas.

The B.C. Centre for Disease Control reports on school exposures in B.C. should be a clean slate tomorrow, since schools have not been in session for the past two weeks. All eyes will be watching to see how quickly the exposures rack up and whether schools are amplifying spread of covid-19.

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