Despite surge in COVID-19 exposures, Central Okanagan schools are safe: Superintendent | iNFOnews | Thompson-Okanagan's News Source

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Despite surge in COVID-19 exposures, Central Okanagan schools are safe: Superintendent

Central Okanagan School District Superintendent Kevin Kaardal (left) and school board chair Moyra Baxter.
Image Credit: FILE PHOTO
November 13, 2020 - 1:15 PM

Over the past two weeks there have been 11 schools run by the Central Okanagan School District that have been exposed to COVID-19.

That means, between 20 and 25 students and staff have tested positive out of almost 27,000 people in the region’s schools, according to School District 23 Superintendent Kevin Kaardal.

“This isn’t a school issue,” he told today, Nov. 13. “Schools are safer than most places you’ll be because we have layers of protocols that help reduce transmission. They can’t prevent it. If it’s in the community, it’s inevitable that it will come into schools. If we want to have absolutely safe schools then everyone’s behaviour in the community needs to change.”

Kaardal noted that there were no COVID-19 exposures his district in the first few weeks after schools reopened in early September.

The numbers back him up.

Up to the end of October, case counts in the entire Interior Health region were less than 10 per day.

That changed at the beginning of November when cases jumped to more than 10 a day and hit close to 30 a day last week.

While those numbers are for the entire health region, 70 per cent of the positive cases over the past two weeks have been in the Okanagan.

Kaardal would not say what percentage of cases were students versus staff but did note that Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry has pointed to a ratio of two-thirds students to one-third staff.

In all cases, infected people got the disease from family or social activities outside the schools.

“There have been no transmissions that can be confirmed in schools,” Kaardal said. “That doesn’t mean there won’t be.”

In most cases, the infected individual has self-isolated at home. There were some instances where a few others that were in contact with that person were sent home to self-isolate and in a “handful” of cases, an entire learning group, or classroom, was sent home.

That doesn’t mean anyone else was infected, just that they may have been exposed.

School District 23 was the only one of 18 public school districts in the Interior Health region that had potential exposures listed on the Interior Health web page as of yesterday.

READ MORE: Why Central Okanagan schools are getting hit hardest by COVID-19

But Mission Hill Elementary School in Vernon had a case confirmed today and is now on the list.

READ MORE: COVID-19 case reported at Vernon elementary school

Vernon's Clarence Fulton Secondary School was the first Okanagan school with a confirmed case in early October.

There were also at least two schools in the Kootenays on that list earlier in the school year.

Schools are dropped off the list after 14 days.

Kaardal stressed the need for everyone in the community to reduce the spread of the virus in order to lower the number of exposures in schools.

“We have to make sure each individual takes this seriously and pushes past the fatigue and follows the health recommendations of our health officer,” he said. “A safe community means even safer schools.”

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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