Information released by Island Health states that some infected with the coronavirus was in the Alberni District Secondary School Sept. 14, 15, 17, 18 and 22. Pictured is a welcoming event for First Nations students held before the COVID-19 pandemic. (Deborah Potter photo)
Classes continued on Oct. 5 at the Alberni District Secondary, after a notice was issued on the weekend that someone at the high school tested positive for COVID-19.
Information released by Island Health states that the infected person was in the facility Sept. 14, 15, 17, 18 and 22, nearly two weeks before School District 70 notified the community of possible exposure at the large Port Alberni school. Two weeks is commonly considered by public health authorities to be the maximum period that symptoms of the novel coronavirus can present themselves after infection.
A news release from SD70 stated that the district learned of the confirmed case on Oct. 3.
“Public health staff then initiated contact tracing to identify any individuals needing to self-isolate or self-monitor for COVID-19 symptoms, and a general notification to the school community was issued on Sunday, October 4,” stated the school district. “If you do not receive a phone call from public health officials, please continue to attend school and monitor for COVID-19 symptoms as per [B.C. Centre for Disease Control] guidelines noted in the daily health check form.”
The district will not specify if it was a student or staff member who was infected.
“For privacy reasons, we cannot give out further details,” stated SD70.
Island Health’s protocol for handling coronavirus exposure in a school entails determining who was in close contact with the infected person, and informing these people to quarantine for 14 days to monitor if any symptoms arise. But even being in the same class as an infected person does necessarily mean that a person should isolate themselves due to risk, according to the health authority.
“Only Public Health Nurses and Medical Health Officers determine who is a close contact,” said Island Health. “Learning groups, friends or other connections may not be determined to be a close contact.”
The novel coronavirus is transmitted through droplets emitted by the mouth or nose within six feet of an infected person, according the World Health Organization.
Approximately one third of the school’s population is Indigenous, and news of the confirmed case alarmed many Nuu-chah-nulth families. Numerous questions came to the Nuu-chah-nulth education workers who assist students at the school. They have been relaying to parents that there is so far just one confirmed case who was present at the school, and that Island Health will contact those who may have been exposed to the virus. School remains in session with health measures in place to limit transmission, and the Nuu-chah-nulth education workers will continue to be available to assist families, according to Ian Caplette, director of Education, Training and Social Development for the Nuu-chah-nulth Tribal Council.