5 people have now tested positive for COVID-19 at Kelowna school | iNFOnews | Thompson-Okanagan's News Source

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5 people have now tested positive for COVID-19 at Kelowna school

Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry
Image Credit: SUBMITTED / Province of B.C.
October 22, 2020 - 4:28 PM

There are now five people infected by COVID-19 at the École de l'Anse-au-sable in Kelowna but Interior Health is still trying to figure out how it spread.

It's the first school outbreak in B.C., as opposed to previously reported exposure events or clusters.

Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry confirmed at a media briefing today, Oct. 22, even though it's a French language school, the virus didn't come from someone who had recently returned from Quebec which has seen a surge in cases over the past few weeks.

“No link to Quebec that I know of but there certainly are links to travellers from other provinces who were the source of the initial case,” she said.

It seems one person brought it into the school and four others have now tested positive, up from three yesterday. About 160 people have been sent home to self-isolate for 14 days, which is about half the school population. It has about 300 students in classes from Kindergarten to Grade 12.

READ MORE: 274 new COVID-19 cases in B.C. sets new daily record

Dr. Henry said there have been 213 exposure events in the province’s more than 2,000 schools since they reopened in September and six cluster events.

Clusters are cases where more than one person has been infected with COVID-19 but the spread of the disease happened outside the school.

This is the first spread inside a school and health authorities are still trying to figure out how these different people became infected.

“This exposure occurred after members of the school community mixed with select cohorts and one another, while others mixed during a break,” Interior Health stated in an emailed statement. “The individuals who are self-isolating were physically and administratively separate from the rest of the school community.”

The first case came to light on the weekend and contact tracing started Sunday, Dr. Henry said.

The infected people are a mix of students and teachers. Dr. Henry would not say how many of each but those infected during other exposure events were split one-third among teachers and two-thirds among students.

Dr. Henry was also asked if the school might end up having to be closed.

"That’s a call that will be made by Interior Health but at this time, it appears that the contagion is limited to this group," she said.

She reiterated comments she made weeks ago that the only time she expects a school would have to be closed is if it could not operate safely because too many staff were infected or self-isolating. So far, this is not the case at École de l'Anse-au-sable.

Dr. Henry also said it’s too early to tell if this outbreak will change the way schools operate and whether the cohort system – where students are grouped together rather than mixed will all students – is working.

“We learn from every exposure event,” Dr. Henry said. “We learn from every cluster and we learn from every outbreak. We’ve seen this from our long-term care (homes) and how we approach outbreaks in long-term care. We learned a lot very early on.

“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.”


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