BC teacher ponders WorkSafe claim over catching Coronavirus at school

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A Vancouver high-school teacher who tested positive or COVID-19 was never contacted by public health officials after a student in her class was confirmed to have the illness, she says.

Renee Willock, West Vancouver Teachers Association president, told CTV that instead, the teacher was alerted by students who were themselves contact-traced and asked to isolate.

As a result the teacher, who works at Sentinel Secondary School in West Vancouver, has filed a claim over the matter with WorkSafeBC, the provincial agency that promotes safe and healthy workspaces.

“The teacher is hugely frustrated,” Willock said. “She could have gone out on Saturday and spread this further and that didn’t need to be the case.”

The teacher stayed home after finding out the student was positive, but she herself began to feel sick the next day. Public health officials are now investigating whether the teacher became infected by the student.

Since the re-opening schools two weeks ago, no confirmed transmission of COVID-19 between a student and a teacher has occurred in Vancouver. But Willock says this case has set off alarms for teachers, as it shows them there are failings in the current system.

Willock said she wants stricter rules imposed for both for mask wearing and physical distancing.

“Just cohorts and contract tracing is not enough,” she said. “We need better preventative measures in schools.”

The teacher’s claim would become the first test case of a teacher filing over the coronavirus with WorkSafeBC.

Teri Mooring, B.C. Teachers Federation president, said there needs to be a process that teachers can count on, to know if there is potential classroom exposure.

“We need to be assured when cases are detected and there are confirmed cases of COVID in schools, that quick and efficient contact tracing happens,” Mooring told CTV.

“This is not leading to confidence in the system unfortunately. Everyone needs to understand there will be quick and efficient notifications when these things happen.”

Mooring feels a real investigation needs to take place into how the teacher was not made aware of the active case in her own classroom, and why staff, parents and the public often aren’t being made aware of cases.

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