B.C. Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry. (B.C. Government photo)

B.C. Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry. (B.C. Government photo)

Kelowna Francophone school COVID-19 outbreak climbs to 5, mixture of students and staff

Health officer says situation evolving, spoke to possible closure, changes to provincial guidelines

Three COVID-19 cases first identified at a Francophone school in Kelowna has increased to five, provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry announced today.

This is the first outbreak declared at a school in B.C.

“Steps were taken by public health with the school, to ensure they they can contain the spread to the involved cohorts,” said Henry in a live information session on Oct. 22.

As a result, 160 people from the École de L’Anse-au-sable community are self-isolating at home, and are working with the school to ensure ongoing educational needs are being met.

READ MORE: COVID-19 outbreak at Kelowna Francophone school

Henry said provincial health teams continue to work on site to get a ‘full picture’ of who may have been exposed to the virus.

According to Henry, the five confirmed cases are a mixture of students and staff. In total, 213 exposure events have been identified in over 2000 schools in the province, about two thirds of these being students, and one third teachers. Six clusters (more than one case) have been identified, the majority of which have been in the Fraser Health and Vancouver-Coastal Health region.

She said the first exposures at École de L’Anse-au-sable came to light over last weekend, and that provincial health teams are working to identify further potential exposures.

Henry said closing down a school like this due to an outbreak is a possibility, if their investigation continues to identify further exposures. However she added it’s ‘unlikely’ given what she knows about the outbreak and investigation so far.

“The medical health officer… in Kelowna is leading on this with the school, with the principal, making sure that we know and are doing the detailed investigation that we do for all of these outbreaks, and now they’re confident they’ve address people who have been exposed, but that (closure) is a possibility,” said Henry.

In a previous information session, Henry was asked what it would take to close a school in B.C. At the time she said it would take a large number of staff to test positive and self isolate, resulting in the school not being able to operate safely.

“That’s not the case right now in Kelowna, but obviously these things evolve over the days as the investigation (does),” she said.

Asked if this outbreak could bring with it changes to protocols or guidelines in other schools in B.C., Henry said they learn from every exposure, cluster, and outbreak.

“This is our first school outbreak and we will learn from it, and if there are things that come to light that will help reduce (the) potential for this happening in other schools, then absolutely we will be looking at how we can expand those measures to every school.”

She said they are working very closely with the school community, and that if you have not been contacted by public health to self isolate, “you can continue to monitor yourself and go to school as you normally would.”

There are currently 1,920 active COVID-19 cases in the province, 71 are hospitalized, and 21 are in critical care.

READ MORE: Interior Health reports 12 additional COVID-19 cases

READ MORE: B.C shatters single-day COVID-19 record with 274 new cases; most linked to gatherings

Do you have something to add to this story, or something else we should report on? Email: phil.mclachlan@kelownacapnews.com


 

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