Burnaby school district coronavirus letter is 'very misleading', says parent

A Burnaby school district letter telling parents that students returning from coronavirus-affected areas in China don’t need to be kept home from school has raised concerns.

The letter, sent out Friday, passed on information from the Ministry of Health, including tips on proper hygiene and advising anyone who is sick to stay home.

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It said the risk in B.C. remains low, according to the provincial health officer, and “all necessary precautions are being taken to prevent the spread of infection.”

It also included this statement:

“The Ministry of Health has advised and confirmed that individuals returning from affected regions do not need to be isolated at home or kept home from school.”

One Burnaby parent who got the letter, however, called that statement “wrong and very misleading” in an email to the NOW.

“I know several people who are planning to return to Vancouver in the next few days, in a WeChat group and friends’ friends,” stated the woman, who said she is a permanent resident, originally from Sichuan Province in China. “They indeed have a plan to be isolated at home for at least two weeks voluntarily. I am just worried that this document will change their idea.”

The parent, who did not want to be named, raised concerns about the spread of coronavirus by students who might be infected but don’t show symptoms.

She pointed to a paper published in the medical journal The Lancet and a letter to The New England Journal of Medicine signed by 17 German doctors raising concerns about the asymptomatic spread of the virus.

The German doctors wrote the letter after it appeared a German man had been infected by a Chinese business partner who had shown no symptoms until after their interaction ended.

At a press conference Friday morning, provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry said the case in Germany was something she was “paying a lot of attention to” and that asymptomatic transmission “is a challenge.”

Henry said health officials are still figuring out if younger people, who don’t tend to get as severely ill, are transmitting the virus.

She said that “may happen and is certainly theoretically plausible.”

“It is certainly not what is common and not what is driving this outbreak,” she said.

The Burnaby school district said the information in the letter came from the ministries of education and health.

An education ministry spokesperson directed questions about Friday’s letter to the Ministry of Health.

That ministry has not yet responded for comment.

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