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Herbert Spencer Elementary reports first COVID-19 exposure after two-week lull in New West

Only four exposures were reported in the New Westminster school district in January. But Fraser Health is now on high alert after the first report of a COVID-19 variant connected with a Maple Ridge school.
COVID in classroom
Herbert Spencer Elementary saw its first COVID-19 exposure of the school year to close out a quiet January. But now all eyes are on another Fraser Health school district where a COVID variant case has connections to Garibaldi Secondary.

Herbert Spencer Elementary has seen its first COVID-19 exposure of the school year – after two weeks without a reported exposure in New Westminster schools.

The Spencer exposure relates to someone who was in the school on Monday, Jan. 25. Families received a letter on Friday, Jan. 29, and it was publicly reported on the Fraser Health school exposure site on Jan. 30.

The notice came after the longest stretch without a reported exposure in the New Westminster school district since early October.

Since schools returned from winter break, Glenbrook Middle School has had one exposure on Jan. 4 (publicly reported on Jan. 11) and Queensborough Middle School on Jan. 11 (publicly reported on Jan. 13). The Home Learners Program also saw an exposure Jan. 5.

The last time the school district went two weeks between exposures was early in the school year – when there was a break between Sept. 22 and Oct. 7.

“Exposure” means that someone who has since tested positive for COVID-19 (student or staff) was in the school during their potentially infectious period, but it does not mean that the virus was actually transmitted within the school.



At the same time, a COVID-19 variant case has appeared in connection with a school in the Fraser Health region (which covers the territory from Burnaby to Boston Bar, including New Westminster).

Fraser Health announced this weekend that it’s working closely with Garibaldi Secondary School in Maple Ridge to “manage” a COVID-19 exposure that has connections to one of the highly transmissible COVID variants.

A person who was at the school on Jan. 18 and 19 has tested positive for COVID-19 and is a close contact of another case who has the COVID-19 variant. (That person doesn’t attend the school.)

Because the variant may spread more easily than the original virus, Fraser Health is arranging for testing to take place for staff and students who may have been in contact with the school case. The Maple Ridge COVID-19 test collection centre is closed to the public today (Feb. 1) to allow for that testing, and other appointments have been rescheduled or redirected to other test collection centres.

“As this is a variant that is new to our communities and highly transmissible, Fraser Health is working to identify any further connected variant cases to ensure immediate isolation and case management to prevent further transmission,” a Fraser Health information bulletin says.

Follow Julie MacLellan on Twitter @juliemaclellan.
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