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COVID-19 exposures surge at Burnaby schools as teachers demand the jab

Burnaby teachers demand answers from Fraser Health
Classroom with young children COVID
Young children wearing masks in classroom

Public high schools in Burnaby continue to see multiple COVID-19 exposure days, according to postings by Fraser Health on its school tracker site.

Currently on the list are Burnaby Central, South, North, Byrne Creek and Alpha, but Moscrop and Cariboo Hill were on the list earlier in the week (Burnaby Mountain was on the list earlier this month coming off of spring break).

Elementary schools on the list include Cascade Heights, Brantford, Marlborough, Lyndhurst, Montecito, South Slope and Sperling, but earlier in the week that list also included Parkcrest and Armstrong.

As for Burnaby independent schools, Holy Cross elementary and St. Thomas More Collegiate are listed.

This surge in exposure dates comes as Burnaby teachers are calling on Fraser Health to prioritize them for COVID-19 vaccination – or at least explain why they’re not getting the shots while teachers in surrounding districts are.

“Between April 4 and 10, Burnaby had 475 new COVID-19 cases in the community, the fourth highest in Metro Vancouver after Surrey, Vancouver and the Tri-Cities,” wrote Burnaby Teachers’ Association president Daniel Tetrault in a press release Thursday. “As of April 21, Burnaby had 21 schools with exposures including a number of classes and students required to isolate. Despite the increase in cases, Burnaby is one of the only districts in the Metro Vancouver area that has not been included in the vaccine prioritization.”

Tetrault said he’s happy teachers in other Metro Vancouver districts have been prioritized but the Burnaby school district has seen “a continued and concerning growth in COVID-19 cases,” and he’s calling on the health authority to get school staff in this city vaccinated.

“These are teachers and school staff that are going in every day with 30 kids in their class in some cases and seeing and hearing about all these exposures and kids in their class and school having to isolate, so it’s very anxiety inducing,” he told the NOW.

Tetrault said teachers were told over spring break that they and other essential workers would be vaccinated with the AstraZeneca vaccine by the end of April, but weren’t given any more information after that plan was paused because of concerns the vaccine was linked to rare blood clots.

“Without any new information, teachers feel like they’re left to fend for themselves,” Tetrault said.

Teachers over 40 are now “frantically” trying to book AstraZeneca shots, but about a third of the Burnaby school district’s staff is under 40 and have been left with no options, Tetrault said.

He said Fraser Health has given local teachers “no rationale or additional information” to explain why Burnaby teachers have not been prioritized for vaccinations – or when they will be vaccinated.

In a letter to schools Wednesday, Fraser Health medical health officer Ariella Zbar said the health authority will be providing vaccinations to eligible staff in each of the school districts in the health region over the coming weeks.”

“We continue to book communities based on transmission risk and other epidemiological data,” states the letter.

The letter doesn’t specify a time teachers in Burnaby will get their shots, saying only that Fraser Health will reach out to school principals directly to say when their staff are to be vaccinated.

  • With additional reporting by Cornelia Naylor
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