A Burnaby parent wants to know why a Fraser Health notice telling her son to self-monitor for 14 days after a COVID-19 exposure at his school was sent just three days before the 14 days were up.
Byrne Creek Community School parent Vicky Munn said she got a notice Friday evening about an exposure at the school on Oct. 19.
“I’m not a panicky person, so I was like, ‘Oh OK, well, there’s tons of students,’ but a few minutes later I get a second email that says, ‘Hey, so the exposure was in your child’s class.’”
It turned out someone who had been in her son’s afternoon Socials 8 class on Oct. 19 had tested positive for the virus.
The second letter advised Munn’s son to self-monitor until Nov. 2, which, by the time the notice was sent, was three days later.
“Basically there was no self-monitoring,” Munn said. “Luckily we’re all healthy, and there hasn’t been any issues, but, when you think back, you think to yourself, ‘Oh wait. He had a headache one day. Should I have been testing?’ You just kind of start questioning.”
The school told Munn it had gotten the notice only about an hour before it was sent out to parents.
Munn said a positive COVID case involving a student should take priority when it comes to such notifications because students are in contact with a lot of people on a daily basis in a small classroom.
“They have more of an exposure risk than a lot of people,” Munn said.
At a teleconference Wednesday, however, Fraser Health chief medical health officer Dr. Elizabeth Brodkin said schools are “relatively safe places in the scheme of things.”
“We have seen a very significant number of exposures in our schools, but only exposures and very few of them have gone on to result in transmission,” she said.
As for the timelines for notifying those who have been exposed, Brodkin said they can vary “significantly” depending on the case.
“From the time the case becomes symptomatic to the time the case goes and gets tested until the time that we actually receive the results is actually a number of days,” she said. “Then we need to interview the case and ensure that they’re doing what they need to do, and from there we go on to identify the contacts. So this process sometimes is very simple and happens very quickly but at other times can be quite difficult and complex perhaps because the telephone numbers that we have for the contacts are incorrect, perhaps because of language barriers or perhaps because of the stigma that’s associated with infection that means some people just don’t want to be found.”
Fraser Health CEO Dr. Victoria Lee said it’s important to remember people who contract COVID “aren’t immediately infectious.”
“It takes time for the virus to incubate, often five to nine days before a person becomes infectious,” she said.
On Monday, Munn said there was a rumour there had been another COVID case at the Byrne Creek and that the student who had contracted the virus had posted a photo of the positive test on social media.
Three days later, on Wednesday, parents at the school got letters from Fraser Health and Byrne Creek announced there had been another exposure at the school on Oct. 26.
At Tuesday’s teleconference, Brodkin said such cases are not unusual.
“In this age of social media, it is actually the norm for cases to become notified before public health is able to contact them, and, if those cases go on to notify their close contacts, those contacts will also be notified by somebody in the community before public health has reached out to them.”
Follow Cornelia Naylor on Twitter @CorNaylor