SD 91 townhall with NH. (Lakes District News photo)

SD 91 holds town hall with Northern Health

Tackles questions around contact tracing, vaccination and parental anxiety

The School District 91’s (SD 91) District Parent Advisory Council (DPAC) hosted a virtual town hall event with Northern Health (NH), to tackle questions around COVID-19 and to understand what lies ahead especially vaccines having arrived in the province.

The town hall was held on Jan 28. online, and was attended by over 50 parents, guardians and staff along with SD 91 Superintendent Manu Madhok, NH regional nursing lead for children and youth Sarah Brown, the regional nursing lead for healthy schools Petrina Bryant and Dr. Rakel Kling, the medical health officer.

The town hall, which was more of a presentation from the NH representatives, also had a Q&A session towards the end, with questions that were submitted to the school district in advance.

NH took the attendees through the B.C. COVID Dashboard, how contact tracing is done in schools, what steps the public health takes when following up with confirmed cases and close contacts, how the health authority collaborates with schools and other health leaders and what the difference between cases and clusters is.

After their presentation, Madhok asked the NH representatives 10 questions compiled by the school district.

Questions like, testing protocols and whether school educators, bus drivers, assistants, staff are a priority for testing and having results fast tracked, to understanding the long-term impact of hand sanitizers on kids, the NH and the school board tackled several questions.

According to NH, at this moment, there are no groups of people who take precedence over others for testing or having their results fast-tracked and if anyone experiences COVID-19 symptoms, they are eligible for testing. They also said that the employees of school would fit in phase three or four of the province’s immunization plan.

When asked why the names of students who test positive are not shared with the school staff despite the staff being in the best position to help with contact tracing, NH said that in B.C., everyone is entitled to confidentiality to their personal health information and when privacy is breached, an individual’s rights are compromised, and they may suffer from stigmatization.

“When people observe that others’ privacy has been breached, they may be reluctant to seek testing themselves, and unfortunately this has already been observed many times during the pandemic,” said Bryant, adding that NH would continue to be transparent with information on public exposures and school exposures while respecting the individuals’ right to privacy.

The representatives also explained the process from identifying a positive school COVID-19 case to contact tracing and communication to school, and discussed the importance of wearing masks.

Dr. Kling also addressed a few questions, the last of which was around the increasing anxiety among families with respect to their kids’ safety especially with the increase in the number of COVID-19 cases in the community.

“It is a difficult decision for many parents to decide what’s the best decision to do for themselves, their children and their families; whether to send children to school or not. But there is no safe environment anywhere right now and we have to assume that COVID is out there, it is everywhere and is circulating and because we know there is COVID in our communities, we have to expect that there will be cases in schools,” she said, adding that while the community needs to accept that it would be normal to expect a few cases, that made it more important to follow all COVID-19 protocols.

“The goal isn’t to prevent every infection but it is to reduce the risk to something that’s manageable so that we can maintain these day-to-day functions as seamlessly as possible,” said Dr. Kling.

Towards the end of the town hall, Madhok assured that the entire virtual event was recorded and would be shared with parents, staff and members of the public through the SD 91 website.

Priyanka Ketkar
Multimedia journalist

Like us on Facebook and follows us on Twitter.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

A health care worker prepares to test a Coastal GasLink field worker for COVID-19. (Coastal GasLink photo)
Coastal GasLink begins COVID screening of pipeline workers

Construction is once again ramping up following Northern Health approval of COVID management plan

Deane Gorsline, is a former Burns Lake resident who has been diagnosed with ALS. (Submitted/Lakes District News)
ALS Action Canada group ropes in political leaders

Hopes to get more support and ultimately better treatment options for Canadians

FILE – A COVID-19 vaccine being prepared. (Olivia Sullivan/Sound Publishing)
B.C. seniors 80 years and older to get COVID vaccine details over next 2 weeks: Henry

Province is expanding vaccine workforce as officials ramp up age-based rollout

(Black Press file photo)
Charges laid against two suspects in pre-Christmas home invasion

An 88-year-old woman was hospitalized after being bear-sprayed in the face Dec. 18, 2020

A health worker holds a vial of AstraZeneca vaccine to be administered to members of the police at a COVID-19 vaccination center in Mainz, Germany, Thursday, Feb. 25, 2021. The federal state of Rhineland-Palatinate, start with the vaccination of police officers in internal police vaccination centers. (Andreas Arnold/dpa via AP)
B.C. officials to unveil new details of COVID vaccination plan Monday

Seniors and health-care workers who haven’t gotten their shot are next on the list

An investigation is underway after a man was shot and killed by Tofino RCMP in Opitsaht. (Black Press Media file photo)
Man shot and killed by RCMP near Tofino, police watchdog investigating

Investigation underway by Independent Investigations Office of British Columbia.

B.C. Supreme Court in Vancouver on Tuesday December 11, 2018. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
B.C.’s compromise on in-person worship at three churches called ‘absolutely unacceptable’

Would allow outdoor services of 25 or less by Langley, Abbotsford and Chilliwack churches

Baldy Mountain Resort was shut down on Saturday after a fatal workplace accident. (Baldy Mountain picture)
Jasmine and Gwen Donaldson are part of the CAT team working to reduce stigma for marginalized groups in Campbell River. Photo by Marc Kitteringham, Campbell River Mirror
Jasmine’s story: Stigma can be the hardest hurdle for those overcoming addiction

Recovering B.C. addict says welcome, connection and community key for rebuilding after drug habit

A Vancouver restaurant owner was found guilty of violating B.C.’s Human Rights Code by discriminating against customers on the basis of their race. (Pixabay)
Vancouver restaurant owner ordered to pay $4,000 to customers after racist remark

Referring to patrons as ‘you Arabs’ constitutes discrimination under B.C.’s Human Rights Code, ruling deems

Nanaimo children’s author and illustrator Lindsay Ford’s latest book is ‘Science Girl.’ (Photo courtesy Lindsay Ford)
B.C. children’s writer encourages girls to pursue the sciences in new book

Lindsay Ford is holding a virtual launch for latest book, ‘Science Girl’

Pig races at the 145th annual Chilliwack Fair on Aug. 12, 2017. Monday, March 1, 2021 is Pig Day. (Jenna Hauck/ Chilliwack Progress file)
Unofficial holidays: Here’s what people are celebrating for the week of Feb. 28 to March 6

Pig Day, Canadian Bacon Day and Grammar Day are all coming up this week

Most Read