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30 cases linked to West Kelowna school outbreak that some say should have been declared sooner – Okanagan

Interior Health says 30 cases have been directly linked to an outbreak at Mark Jok Elementary School in West Kelowna.

“I can tell you that the vast majority of cases were elementary school kids,” said Dr. Silvina Mema, IH medical health officer.

IH declared the school outbreak on Tuesday, prompting a week-and-a-half-long closure that will begin Friday, Nov. 12.

“We are, as a precautionary measure, asking the school to discontinue in-person learning to move to remote learning to break any chain of transmission,” Mema told Global News.

Read more:
‘Deeply frustrating’: Parents struggle to balance work, COVID-19 test delays for their kids

While public health officials have long maintained that transmission within schools remains low, Mema said it does appear this outbreak does involve transmission within the school.

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“We cannot rule out that transmission did not occur at the school for many of these children,” Mema said.

The school remained open Wednesday to give parents a little extra time to prepare for the closure, but attendance was low.

“We have had a number of parents that have chosen to keep their kids, you know, at home who are not symptomatic just as a precaution,” said Kevin Kaardal, superintendent for Central Okanagan Public Schools.

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At-home COVID-19 rapid test kits now available for k-6 Alberta schools with outbreaks

At-home COVID-19 rapid test kits now available for k-6 Alberta schools with outbreaks – Oct 27, 2021

On Tuesday, Susan Bauhart, president of the Central Okanagan Teachers’ Association, told Global News the closure is long overdue.

She added the situation at Mar Jok has been going on for weeks, with numerous classes being out of school and students having to isolate for some time.

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One parent that Global News spoke to agreed, calling the decision to keep the school open irresponsible.

Read more:
West Kelowna case counts rise while rest of Central Okanagan under control

But Mema defended the decision, saying IH has been watching the situation closely and implemented a number of measures to try and stop the spread of the virus.

“We implemented a number of measures, the school principal and the school district in terms of environmental changes to increase the safety,” Mema said.

Mema added that many cases were popping up among groups that were already in isolation.

“Many of the cases were coming from cohorts or groups that were already isolated. So those (cases) were more than expected,” she said.

But over the past weekend, a handful of new cases were confirmed.

“Cases that we would have not expected and cases that we were not sure where they would have acquired the disease from,” she said. “With that in mind … we had to consider that the school was the source of the transmission for these kids.”

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B.C. reports 555 new COVID-19 cases, 11 deaths

B.C. reports 555 new COVID-19 cases, 11 deaths


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The school district realizes the shutdown is a challenge for some working parents and while Kaardal sympathizes he said there’s no other choice.

“It can be distressing and cause problems but, when you have exposures that continue to show up in a school, safety becomes our No. 1 priority and then we all have to pull together as a community,” he said.

Kaardal said school went into remote-learning mode at the beginning of the pandemic, and, while nothing beats in-person learning, the district is ready to make the switch to online education for now.

“We got all that practice and preparation in terms of materials and how we get resources out to families,” Kaardal said.

“So we’re we’re ready to do that and parents can contact the school, they’ll provide equipment, whatever is needed to make sure that next week is as smooth as possible.”

There are 468 students who attend Mar Jok Elementary.

Click to play video: 'B.C. mom concerned over 9-day COVID-19 school exposure notification delay'

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B.C. mom concerned over 9-day COVID-19 school exposure notification delay – Oct 10, 2021

© 2021 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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