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Two more COVID-19 cases at New Westminster elementary schools

Qayqayt, Queen Elizabeth families have been informed about new exposures in their schools
COVID in classroom
COVID-19 exposures are being reported in more New Westminster schools. Photo via Getty Images

Two more New Westminster elementary schools have been added to the COVID-19 school exposures list.

Qayqayt Elementary School and Queen Elizabeth Elementary School were added to the Fraser Health school exposures site this morning (Dec. 2).

It’s the first reported exposure at Qayqayt, the district’s largest elementary school. The case involves someone who was in the school on Nov. 18, 19 and 20.

The Queen Elizabeth case relates to someone who was present in the school on Nov. 20.

An “exposure” does not mean that COVID-19 transmission has occurred in school.

In all cases where someone associated with a school (staff or student) tests positive for COVID-19, Fraser Health takes the lead on contact tracing to determine who, if anyone, is deemed a close contact of the infected person. Health officials may then follow up with anyone who should self-monitor for symptoms or – less commonly - self-isolate.

If you do not hear from public health officials, that means your child is not found to be at risk and should continue to attend school as usual.

In recent weeks, the speed of notifications has caused some concern in New Westminster and other school districts in the Fraser Health region, as families are receiving notifications about potential exposures well into the 14-day monitoring period.

In response, the province has been hiring more contact tracers, and deputy provincial health officer Dr. Reka Gustafson has been placed in charge of a new rapid response team focused on schools.

Gustafson’s team has a mission to “identify and manage exposures and outbreaks in Vancouver Coastal and Fraser Health region schools, and enhance communication with school communities,” as per a provincial statement.

Locally, superintendent Karim Hachlaf has continued to assure parents that schools are safe places for children to be.

“The risk in the school community is, in fact, four times lower than the community at large,” he said at the Nov. 24 school board meeting. “This is really reinforcing what we’ve heard from the provincial health office. Despite the alarming trend on the increase of daily COVID cases, the transmission rate at our schools across the province remains still quite low.”