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Chetwynd Secondary School added to COVID exposure list

Northern Health is warning of a COVID-19 virus exposure at Chetwynd Secondary School. The exposure happened Nov. 13 , according to Northern Health's website.
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Northern Health is warning of a COVID-19 virus exposure at Chetwynd Secondary School. The exposure happened Nov. 13, according to Northern Health's website.

"A notification does not mean your child has been exposed to COVID-19," Northern Health says. "If you do not receive a phone call or letter from Public Health, your child should continue to attend school."

Hudson's Hope school, Fort Nelson Secondary, and Notre Dame School in Dawson Creek remain on the exposure list.

B.C. Education Minister Rob Fleming said Tuesday he hopes the government will be able to avoid school closures under any scenario but he would defer to advice from public health officials should COVID-19 cases worsen.

Fleming said the government would look to keep schools and daycares open even if the province were to lock down the economy to stop community transmission.

"That doesn't mean that we wouldn't amend how we deliver education," he said. "But I think we've learned from the early days of the pandemic that shutting down schools was probably a mistake when we should have focused on safety protocols."

Those involved in the education system agree that it is important to keep children in school so they do not suffer developmental setbacks, he said.

Fleming said schools are safe although there is "increasing concern" about community transmission, particularly in the Lower Mainland.

Four out of 643 schools in the Fraser Health district have been closed either because of an outbreak or staffing shortages related to COVID-19. 

Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry has said schools are a reflection of what's happening in the community, but COVID-19 transmission rates are lower in schools than elsewhere.

"It's incredibly important for families and for children to have in-person, in-class (education), but we're looking at all of our options," she told a news conference on Monday, referring to an extended winter break.

Fleming said officials believe children may be safer in schools.

"If you were to send kids home right now and suspend school, public health would be very concerned that kids would be having playdates and all kinds of informal activities that would actually put them in an unregulated area of greater concern, which would be transmission that occurs in households."

Thanksgiving and Halloween gatherings brought spikes in cases and officials are worried the winter break could bring similar results, he said.

"We do want students and families to enjoy time together, and we want them to have a much-needed rest. So, we're going to consider that. We haven't made any decisions yet."

— with files from The Canadian Press

Email Managing Editor Matt Preprost at editor@ahnfsj.ca.