COVID-19 Notifications in VCH Region

Hiding COVID-19 results seems shady—and it is. 

Joss Arnott // Staff Writer  
Amy Asin // Illustrator

It’s unclear what life would have been like if Capilano University (CapU) had reopened this fall. Would there have been a chance of finding seats in the cafeteria or library? Probably not. Would I have been able to pay attention? Possibly. What we do know is that universities and grade schools went opposite directions. The reason why people trust six-year-olds to socially distance better than actual adults is beyond me, but hey—I’m in film, not medicine.  

The decision for schools to be in-person this fall was not without controversy. However, at the end of the day when the government said “jump,” BC grumbled, “How high?” While I can confidently say I hate online classes, it’s clear that in-person classes are their own kind of stupid.  

Over 24 grade schools within the Vancouver Coastal Health Region (VCH) have recently had confirmed COVID-19 outbreaks. The VCH is the main health authority in charge of people from Vancouver, Richmond, the Sunshine Coast and beyond. They’re in charge of about 1.25 million people’s health—including much of the Courier’s local readership. 

Recently, VCH’s Chief Medical Officer Dr. Patricia Daly has faced public outrage due to her handling of school-related COVID-19 cases. Daly and the VCH went against provincial guidelines and didn’t report which schools were experiencing outbreaks on the VCH’s website. Instead, the VCH was sending letters to those directly infected, but no one else.  

It’s kind of like having spinach in your teeth. It’s horribly green, very noticeable. Nobody tells you about the spinach, though. You receive a letter from the government: “You might have something in your teeth? Stay home until you’re positive it’s gone—Two weeks, tops!”  

In the meantime, you wait by the phone, terrified to hear about who saw the spinach. Only it’s not spinach—it’s the deadly Coronavirus. 

The issue of notifying affected staff and students has been cause for concern since the return to school in September. As it stands, students, staff and parents are left in the dark about possible exposures. No information is released regarding the number of cases confirmed at a school during an outbreak. VCH simply lists schools that have had outbreaks, making no reference to the severity of said outbreaks. This year, students in BC were split into cohorts of around 100 students to create ‘bubbles.’ When someone in a school’s ‘bubble’ tests positive, the entire cohort, including staff associated with it, transition to online classes. 

Recently, second grade students at Caulfield elementary school in West Vancouver were transitioned online due to positive testing within a bubble. Parents were notified by the government, but were not told to get their children tested or that they were possibly at risk. One mother decided to get her daughter tested—she eventually tested positive. She decided to share this information on a Facebook group as her daughter had been asymptomatic. When other parents had their children tested, it was found that over half the class was positive for COVID-19.  

The province does not want to ostracize children, so they send letters and try to handle outbreaks as discreetly as possible. This ensures privacy for those that do get infected but leaves others unsure if they should get themselves or other family members tested.  

The problem is that both online and in-person classes are imperfect solutions. I doubt there is a solution that would work 100% of the time. In times of chaos, all we can do is our best. The province tried to let younger students have a normal year—that’s not a crime. Universities tried to turn their teachers into Twitch streamers. That should be a crime, but I digress.    

The situation with VCH is complicated. At its heart it speaks to a larger problem: the pandemic. There is no perfect solution or right answer to this situation. The long and short of it is simple—nobody knows what is going on anymore. So here we are, with cases rising daily. During the writing of this article, recorded outbreaks in schools covered by VCH rose from 17 to 24. What comes next is unclear. If 2020 was a movie we’d be heading for the climax, where the world ends and the hero somehow makes it through the chaos and is better for it. But this year isn’t a movie—it’s just screwed.

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