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UPDATE: More Vernon, Coldstream, Armstrong schools reporting COVID-19 exposures

Functional closure extended at one school in the North Okanagan-Shuswap district
School District 83 announced that due to a staffing shortage, a two-day functional closure of Armstrong Elementary on Jan. 14 and 17 was being extended to Jan. 21. (File photo )

The number of students testing positive for COVID-19 continues to grow in the North Okanagan.

Clarence Fulton Secondary is the latest school added to the BC School Covid Tracker, with a Jan. 14 and 18 exposure.

Beairsto Elementary is on the list with a Jan. 17 exposure.

Exposures at Pleasant Valley Secondary are listed from Jan. 14.

A Jan. 11-13 exposure has also been added at Ellison Elementary, along with Jan. 10 at Vernon Secondary and Jan. 10-11 at Harwood Elementary.

The tracker has Armstrong Elementary listed with two different exposure dates: Jan. 10/11 and Jan. 13. A functional closure took place at the Armstrong school Jan. 14 and Jan. 17 after teachers refused to work. That closure has been extended for the rest of this week after three staff members tested positive for COVID-19.

Kidston Elementary is listed five different times, but exposure dates were not provided. The Coldstream school is listed three times Jan. 14 and twice Jan. 10.

These exposures are confirmed by the independent tracker, run by two volunteer B.C. parents since the pandemic started. It is currently the only source reporting exposures.

The provincial government, including Interior Health, used to track school cases, but as of 2022 has stopped.

“The Omicron variant spreads rapidly and, as such, contact tracing is a less effective measure in the timely management of COVID-19,” Interior Health said in a letter shared with the Vernon School District.

The health authority is no longer contacting everyone who tests positive, and therefore will not be issuing school exposure notices on its website.

Absentee rates will be used to track what’s happening in individual districts, schools and classrooms.

“Our school-based staff are carefully monitoring attendance every day, as they look for and are reporting instances of unusually high absences, for this time of year,” Vernon School District superintendent Christine Perkins said.

The SD 22 threshold is 25 per cent, which when met will require public health investigation to determine if additional actions are needed.

As an example, Perkins said Kidston was at 14 per cent Jan. 17, with students absent due to any type of illness.

“There are others away for a variety of reasons: parent approved travel, appointments, etc.,” Perkins said.

“Only four staff are away. Of those, two are for ‘illness.’

READ MORE: COVID-19 exposures identified in North Okanagan schools

“Because people are absent for many reasons, we do not know if there is increased COVID-19 activity at our school. We are following up with public health and will share back with our community if they recommend any additional actions should be taken,” Perkins added. “We strongly encourage everyone to complete a daily health check and continue to attend school if they are not sick.”

Public health continues to recommend everyone stay home when they are sick, and to seek testing when recommended.

Parents are reminded to call the school when their child is absent and to identify illness as the reason if they are sick with any type of illness.

“If your child has been instructed to self-isolate because they are a confirmed close contact to someone with COVID-19, and are not showing symptoms and have not tested positive themselves, this is not an illness,” Perkins.

Parents keeping their child home for any reason other than an illness (such as an appointment, family vacation, out of an abundance of caution or some other “by choice” reason) are asked to clearly specify why their child will be absent. “We are all awaiting more details about how the province of B.C. will be rolling out the anticipated wider access to rapid testing kits in the community,” said Perkins.

Those who are already using the kits, can access the BC Centre for Disease Control’s instructions for people who have tested positive for COVID-19 (including information on how self-isolate, how to report your positive test results, and how to determine and notify close contacts):

READ MORE: Health Canada approves Pfizer COVID-19 anti-viral treatment


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Jennifer Smith

About the Author: Jennifer Smith

Vernon has always been my home, and I've been working at The Morning Star since 2004.
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