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B.C. Education Minister asks teachers to trust province’s COVID-19 response

February 22, 2021

Original Article: https://www.theglobeandmail.com/canada/british-columbia/article-bc-education-minister-asks-teachers-to-trust-provinces-covid-1/

Jennifer Whiteside, who left her job as the chief spokesperson and negotiator for the Hospital Employees’ Union to get elected in the New Westminster riding in the October provincial election, said in a phone interview Thursday that she knows parents and teachers are using social media to alert each other to possible classroom exposures days before being notified by backed-up public-health teams.

But the Education Minister said it is essential to trust the system and she added that 900 of the 1,200 new contact tracers recently funded by the province are now working in the field, as the virus spreads in schools at rates that mirror the surrounding communities.

“There is a rigorous process that our public-health officials engage in around contact tracing when a case has been identified and it’s important that that system be allowed to work,” she told The Globe and Mail.

Last week, The Globe reported B.C.’s contact-tracing system to the south and east of Vancouver is on the precipice after case numbers began ramping up sharply in November. Before the start of the school year, the expectation was that these investigators would track every single confirmed case, working rapidly to retrace the infected patient’s whereabouts, and then contact anyone who could have been exposed to the virus to ensure that they would not, in turn, spread COVID-19 to others.

Teachers say they are losing trust in the system as their local health authority routinely takes up to two weeks – the period an infected person is contagious – to give them official word they may have been exposed at school.

Ms. Whiteside said she is particularly mindful of the anxiety faced by instructors working in the densely populated Fraser Health region, which includes Surrey, the city that is currently the epicentre of COVID-19 transmission on Canada’s West Coast.

 

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