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  • Tracy Sherlock

Three schools in Fraser Health closed due to covid-19

Fraser Health Authority president Dr. Victoria Lee announces a two-week school closure on twitter. (Photo: Screen grab)

Three schools in the Fraser Health Region are now closed to respond to covid-19, Dr. Victoria Lee, president and CEO of Fraser Health Authority, announced on Twitter on Saturday night.

The three schools are Cambridge elementary in Surrey, Jarvis elementary in Delta and Al-Hidayah School, an independent school in New Westminster. Each of the schools will close for two weeks, although remote learning may be in place.

At Cambridge elementary, there have been seven positive cases and an outbreak has been declared. At Jarvis elementary and Al-Hidayah School, the cases have been deemed “clusters.”

In all, the BC School Covid Tracker, a Facebook group, has counted 595 school exposures at 361 schools since September. Between Wednesday and Friday alone, 34 in-school exposures were reported by the BC Centre for Disease Control.

Covid-19 is surging in B.C. and Fraser Health is the epicenter. The province is averaging more than 500 cases a day and new restrictions banning social gatherings and indoor sports were brought in a week ago in Fraser Health and Vancouver Coastal Health.

On Saturday, B.C. Teachers’ Federation president Teri Mooring shared a letter she wrote to Premier John Horgan, asking him “in the strongest possible terms to instruct the Ministry of Education to respond swiftly to the dramatic rise in cases of covid-19 in the Fraser Health region by reducing class sizes to no more than 15 students.”

The BCTF has been asking for smaller class sizes and a mask mandate in schools since the summer, saying that it is impossible to maintain physical distancing in classrooms.

“Some school districts, such as Vancouver, have already reduced their class sizes to 15 students to enforce safe spaces, a limit that ought to be immediately implemented,” Mooring wrote.

Vancouver schools have secondary classes split into two, with one half attending in the morning and the other half attending in the afternoon. A second class is held online and every two weeks, the online class and the in-person class switch venues. Not all districts have used this model, however. Elementary school classes have not been divided in half, although some students are choosing to learn online.

Many British Columbians support mandatory masks, including in schools, a survey by Insights West found. Eighty-three per cent of people surveyed said masks should be mandatory in both elementary and secondary schools.

The rule is that masks should be worn by middle and secondary school students when they are in high-traffic areas, like in hallways or on school buses. Just this week, the American Centers for Disease Control declared that masks also protect the wearer, particularly in preventing the spread of covid-19 from people who have no symptoms or who have not felt any symptoms yet – and who apparently account for more than half of all transmission.

Fraser Health defines a cluster as two or more people with covid-19 who attended school during their infectious period and an outbreak as multiple individuals with covid-19 when transmission is likely widespread within the school setting.

“The declaration of an outbreak of COVID-19 or any other communicable disease in a school setting is at the discretion of the school medical officer. This is expected to occur rarely, and only when exceptional measures are needed to control transmission,” the Public Health Guidance for K-12 schools document says.

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