Resources for schools and parents to support children and youth in school during COVID-19
Fraser Health has been working closely with school districts and Ministry partners to support students in school. We are aware that schools and parents have many questions about the guidelines and precautions put in place for the 2020-2021 school year.
With Surrey being identified as a high transmission community, we have been working closely with the Surrey school district and FISA (Federation of Independent School Associations) representatives as part of the region’s Rapid Response Team that addresses safety plans and communications strategies around COVID-19 in schools. Additionally, Fraser Health’s school hub continues to support school districts, conseil scolaire francophone and independent school partners when there have been COVID-19 exposures in schools through case and contact management, and additional measures where needed such as ordering mask requirements down to Grade 4 for K-12 schools in Surrey school district boundaries.
COVID-19 School Updates – Immunization for 12-17 year olds
Health Canada has approved the use of the Pfizer vaccine for youth aged 12 to 17. Children aged 12 to 17 can register to get vaccinated now.
Read the school update in the following languages:
Read the school update in the following languages:
Data release: Fraser Health’s COVID-19 school cluster and transmission analysis
Fraser Health undertook an analysis of COVID-19 cases among school-aged children and school staff from January 1 to March 7, 2021 to better understand the extent and nature of in-school transmission of the virus.
These data were used, alongside a similar analysis completed by Vancouver Coastal Health in late 2020, as part of the provincial discussion over whether or not to close schools, and to inform prioritization of school staff for vaccination.
Our data demonstrated that during the nine week period of analysis that <1 per cent of the approximately 315,000 staff and students in the Fraser region had contracted COVID-19. Other key highlights include:
- Of these 2049 confirmed cases, the majority (87 per cent) were acquired outside of school.
- Of the 2049 confirmed cases, just under 20 per cent were associated with a confirmed school cluster or outbreak.
- These confirmed clusters, and one outbreak, were distributed among 116 of the nearly 640 K-12 schools in the region.
- Of the 267 cases (13 per cent of total school cases) believed to have acquired COVID in school, 88 (4.3 per cent of total school cases) led to household/community transmission, and mostly within the household.
- While this did represent the early days of variant of concern circulation in our region, in-school transmission represents a small fraction of the COVID-19 cases among school staff and school-aged children.
- Notification letters are provided to the school community when there has been a case at a school during the case’s infectious period.
- The results of our analysis demonstrate that in-school transmission represents only a fraction of cases associated with schools and, as such, the notification letters issued over the nine week period were not a direct correlation of the degree of in-school transmission.
Fraser Health will be conducting additional analyses of school-associated COVID-19 cases since March 7 to review the impact of factors such as variants and immunization efforts.
Video Q&A's with Dr. Ingrid Tyler and Dr. Ariella Zbar
Get answers to several of your most common questions about returning to school during COVID-19.
Translated questions and answers
Questions and answers
What is the process for case and contact management for schools?
- Fraser Health receives lab results of all positive cases in our region. We directly contact each case to interview them for contact tracing. If the case is a student or a school staff member, we will ask additional questions about their time at school. If the case attended school during their infectious period, we will notify the school or school district immediately to discuss the exposure. The school community is then notified of the exposure.
- If the case is a student, we will interview both the student and their parent/guardian. If the student is a child, we will contact the parent/guardian first. If the student is an adolescent, we will contact the student first. If we cannot gather the necessary information from the parent/guardian or student to complete our risk assessment, we will ask the school for additional information.
- Privacy is maintained throughout the case and contact management process. Details of the exposure will not be shared with the school community. If there is an exposure at the school, staff and students can continue to attend school unless they are directly contacted by Fraser Health and do not have any new symptoms of illness.
- The timeline of the case and contact process varies due to the timing of when Fraser Health receives lab results, information gathering in order to complete the risk assessment, and volume. We are never certain when contact tracing is over because there could be new cases within the incubation period, which we will continue to monitor. We encourage everyone to continue to practice infection prevention and control measures, such as physical distancing, hand hygiene, mask use, regular cleaning and monitoring for signs and symptoms of illness and being tested if needed.
When would someone be asked to self-isolate?
- If someone has been in close contact with a confirmed case, such as prolonged face-to-face contact, that person will be identified as a close contact because they are at higher risk of contracting COVID-19. Close contacts will be directly contacted by public health and will be asked to self-isolate. Only public health can determine who is a close contact.
- The close contact will self-isolate at home away from others and will monitor their symptoms during the isolation period. The isolation period is 14 days from the date of exposure. Public Health will provide isolation dates to the individual. If they develop symptoms, they will seek a COVID-19 test.
- Contact tracing will not be completed for close contacts. Contact tracing is only completed for cases.
- For schools and child care, public health will determine who is a close contact and is required to self-isolate. This is because schools have several measures in place and this information will be used in the case and contact management process for schools.
- If someone in the household is a close contact and is self-isolating, the rest of the household does not need to self-isolate. If someone in the household is a confirmed case, then the rest of the household will be directed to self-isolate.
What do I do if my child has symptoms of the common cold?
Your child should stay home if they have any new symptoms of illness. If your child has symptoms of common cold, such as runny nose or sore throat, they should stay home for 24 hours.
If symptoms improve, they can return back to school. If your child has a fever, or if after 24 hours symptoms remain unchanged or worsen, seek a health assessment by calling the Fraser Health Virtual Health team at 1-800-314-0999 between 10 AM and 10 PM seven days a week or 8-1-1 outside of these hours.
Key symptoms of COVID-19 to watch for are fever, chills, cough, shortness of breath, loss of sense of smell or taste, nausea, vomiting and diarrhea.
What about masks in schools?
Masks are one of the tools we have to reduce COVID-19 transmission.
Masks are appropriate in certain situations and may be recommended when physical distancing cannot be maintained.
All of the measures including physical distancing, hand washing and staying home when sick, work together to reduce probability of COVID-19 transmission.
Because of the nature of masks (reusing them, touching them, taking them on and off, having them become saturated, laying them down and putting back on), they are one of the things we do to prevent the spread of COVID-19, but not a mandatory measure.
For more information about face coverings in Surrey schools, please click here.
If my child has been potentially exposed to COVID-19, do they need to stay home from school?
In many cases, Public Health will not advise people to self-isolate because the risk of exposure is relatively low.
In those situations, Public Health will notify people by letter to watch for signs and symptoms, which means being on high alert for new or unusual symptoms and to isolate and seek advice on testing if you feel you have developed symptoms.
What if someone in a student’s household has COVID-19. Can the child still go to school?
If someone in a household is sick with a confirmed case of COVID-19, then Public Health will advise the entire household to stay home and self-isolate.
Individuals in that household should not go to school or work until advised by Public Health that it is safe to do so.
What do parents need to do if they think their child has potentially exposed others to COVID-19?
Public Health gets the report of all of COVID-19 cases, follows up with each individually, determines the exposure and risk of transmission, and provides the advice they need. You do not need to contact anybody until Public Health reaches you.
If you choose to let friends and family know there may have been an exposure, please reassure them that Public Health will be providing them advice soon.
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