COVID-19 cases at Kelowna daycare exposes some of the confusion about how and why information is shared | iNFOnews | Thompson-Okanagan's News Source

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COVID-19 cases at Kelowna daycare exposes some of the confusion about how and why information is shared

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November 08, 2020 - 6:00 PM

A cluster of possibly as many as 14 COVID-19 cases that led to the voluntary closure of a Kelowna daycare centre was barely mentioned by health officials,  fuelling confusion among those who were affected and the greater community.

READ MORE: New COVID-19 case confirmed at Kelowna high school

On Oct. 23, near the bottom of a news release on the latest COVID-19 numbers in the region, there was a section saying Interior Health was aware that Building Blocks Educare had voluntarily closed its Gordon Drive daycare campus “while it resolves staffing impacts related to COVID-19.”

It goes on to say they are working with the operators “on a cluster of COVID-19 cases affecting a select group of its childcare centre community.”

READ MORE: Kelowna childcare centre closes voluntarily due to COVID-19

A letter from Interior Health to parents, that was obtained by iNFOnews.ca, said children who had been in Classroom 303 on Oct. 13 and 14 were not to return and that “impacted families” would be contacted by Interior Health.

Another letter, sent on Nov. 1, recommended that all children and staff of classrooms 302, 502 and 603 “must self-isolate” until the end of the day Nov. 5.

It did not say on what days the potential exposure might have happened.

While they were told to self-isolate, parents were also told they would not be contacted by Interior Health and they were asked to email Building Blocks to confirm they had received and understood the letter.

iNFOnews.ca asked Interior Health why they were not contacting this second group of parents.

“Public health is focusing their efforts on contact tracing positive cases,” was the response. “These children are not positive cases. They have been exposed and are being directed to self-isolate.”

When asked why there was no information available about this situation, Interior Health was equally vague with its answer.

“We would only put out a release if there was a risk of broader public exposure or if an outbreak was declared,” Interior Health said in an email.

It would also not comment on the number of people who tested positive at the daycare.

One parent said she talked to an Interior Health nurse about the situation and was told there were 14 people who tested positive.

Even the daycare operator was not told how many in her daycare “community,” had been infected.

“We were not given a number, we know that there was a cluster of cases,” director Laura Forbes said in an email. “We were provided with the classroom exposure information and asked to share that information with our families.

“We are not privy to all of the information and following the guidance we have from the Ministry of Health, ‘To support the right to personal privacy, public health will only provide the information required to support effective contact tracing. Staff should not notify others about potential or confirmed cases of COVID-19 in the child care setting unless specifically directed to by public health.’”

So, while school districts are directed by Interior Health to notify the public of single exposures in any school, daycare operators — who may be looking after some of those same children – are prevented from even knowing how many of their staff or children have tested positive.

Building Blocks Educare will be re-opening its Gordon Drive campus on Monday. Parents can expect to see some changes but some things will remain the same, including having the 196 children wash their hands in their own classrooms upon arrival.

Changes include staff wearing masks in hallways, office areas, the kitchen, doorways or when briefly entering other classrooms. They will only have to wear masks inside classrooms if they can’t keep six feet from their co-workers.

Staff and family members will be required to wear masks when they drop off and pick up the children, even though that will continue to be outside.


To contact a reporter for this story, email Rob Munro or call 250-808-0143 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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