200 students at Kamloops high school self isolating due to COVID-19 exposures | iNFOnews | Thompson-Okanagan's News Source

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200 students at Kamloops high school self isolating due to COVID-19 exposures

Provincial health authorities have increased measures today to prevent spread from COVID-19 exposure events in schools.
February 04, 2021 - 2:18 PM

Interior Health remains reluctant to declare the Sa-Hali Secondary School exposure events an outbreak despite 200 students directed to self-isolate.

After contact tracing and self-isolation directives, out of the 890 students enrolled at Sa-Hali Secondary, only 25% were in attendance yesterday, Feb. 3.

"We declare an outbreak when there is uncontrolled transmission, so we are looking for that right now," Interior Health said in an email to iNFO news. "To date, our investigations show that with the school exposures, the exposures are coming from the community and not within the schools themselves."

READ MORE: Masks mandatory in B.C. middle and high school classrooms

Acting school district superintendent Dr. Terry Sullivan said the low attendance records could be attributed to the end of the quarter while the school is rolling into starting the next.

"Many students were not required to be in attendance because they might be finished work needed in that quarter," he said. Some families will also voluntarily pull their children from class after being alerted of exposure dates.

"As of (Feb. 3) there were 16 confirmed COVID-19 cases within the school community," Dr. Sullivan said. "That's 13 students and three staff members."

Despite the lack of outbreaks declared at schools, provincial health authorities have implemented an enhanced restrictions and health measures in B.C. schools.

Mandatory mask measures have been expanded within middle and secondary schools, among additional restrictions on physical education and music classes.

READ MORE: Kamloops school district COVID-19 exposure events on the rise

While provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry said that masks on their own are not the final solution, these measures appear to be a reaction to continued spread among communities within this second wave.

“Schools are a reflection of our communities,” Dr. Henry said. “I anticipate, as we continue to have spread in our communities, we will continue to have exposures in our schools.”

Even if Interior Health had declared Sa-Hali Secondary an outbreak, the health authority clarified in a press briefing today they would not have the authority to close the school. That decision is up to the school board, and Dr. Terry Sullivan isn't considering that option yet.

"Schools are very secure and enclosed. The safest place for a student to be is within the school," Dr. Sullivan said. "People might ask why we didn't implement these rules before, but the truth is we didn't need to. This is coming from five months of data."

There are currently 10 schools around Kamloops with exposure event alerts and 23 within the Interior Health region. Each alert will be removed two weeks after the last exposure event occurred.

To contact a reporter for this story, email Levi Landry or call 250-819-3723 or email the editor. You can also submit photos, videos or news tips to the newsroom and be entered to win a monthly prize draw.

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