A teacher at Uplands Elementary School in Terrace, B.C. who was exposed to COVID-19 has come foward with concerns about the speed of Northern Health’s contact tracing. This photo shows Uplands Elementary students participating in a drive-by greet with teachers and school staff, which was held April 3 when schools were closed in the early days of the pandemic. (Jake Wray/Terrace Standard)

A teacher at Uplands Elementary School in Terrace, B.C. who was exposed to COVID-19 has come foward with concerns about the speed of Northern Health’s contact tracing. This photo shows Uplands Elementary students participating in a drive-by greet with teachers and school staff, which was held April 3 when schools were closed in the early days of the pandemic. (Jake Wray/Terrace Standard)

Terrace teacher exposed to COVID-19 irked by 1-week lag in notification at his school

Surge in cases strains Northern Health’s contact tracing capacity

Six Terrace schools were exposed to COVID-19 between Nov. 23 and Dec. 7, prompting concerns about the efficacy of Northern Health’s contact tracing procedures as well as calls for a full closure of Terrace schools.

Cole Stephens, a teacher at Uplands Elementary School, told CBC News that he was aware he had likely been exposed to the virus on Dec. 1 after receiving notification of an exposure at his son’s daycare.

He asked colleagues whether he should send an email to his class, but was told to wait for direction from Northern Health. The public health agency did not issue a notice of exposure at the school until a week later, on Dec. 7, by which point he and has family had developed symptoms, confirming his suspicion that he’d been exposed.

The Terrace Standard reached out to Stephens and his wife Miranda Leffler, who said they had no further comment beyond what they told CBC News.

A surge in COVID-19 cases is straining Northern Health’s case management and contact tracing resources. In a statement, a spokesperson said the health authority is narrowing the scope of its contact tracing to accommodate the strain, while also deploying additional staff to case management and contact tracing teams.

“Currently, contact tracing includes public health identifying and directly notifying all close contacts of every confirmed case,” the spokesperson said.

Nothern Health is shifting to focusing contact tracing efforts. Only close contacts in “certain situations” will be contacted, such as cases related to industrial projects, cases in First Nations communities and anyone who is part of a known cluster or outbreak. Health care workers will also still be contacted.

“This will ensure public health can respond quickly to developing clusters of cases or potential outbreaks for those that are most vulnerable,” the spokesperson said.

The strain is also leading to delays in notifications of positive test results in the region, although the health authority did not detail how long the delay currently is.

Janet Meyer, superintendent of Coast Mountains School District 82 (to which Uplands Elementary School belongs), said that while she’d like to see a faster turnaround in information being sent out, she doesn’t agree with Stephens.

“I also recognize that we are working very, very closely with Northern Health … and I am confident in the fact that Northern Health is doing everything humanly possible with the resources that they have at their disposal to have the fastest possible turnaround time.”

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

The COVID-19 outbreak at the two Coastal GasLink workforce lodges has officially been declared over. (Lakes District News file photo)
COVID-19 outbreak at Coastal GasLink worksites declared over

In total, 56 cases were associated with the outbreak in the Burns Lake and Nechako LHAs

Toronto-based director Michelle Latimer was recently scrutinized after years of claiming she was of Algonquin and Metis descent. (CANADIAN PRESS/Chris Young)
Haida activist calls for hefty fines, jail time against those who claim to be Indigenous

Filmmaker Tamara Bell proposing the Indigenous Identity Act – to dissuade ‘Indigenous identity theft’

Brett Alexander Jones is wanted on several warrants province-wide, in connection with multiple charges. Jan. 21, 2021. Kitimat RCMP photo
Kitimat RCMP searching for man wanted on several warrants province-wide

Jones is described as a five-foot 10-inches Caucasian man, with blond hair and blue eyes.

Administering naloxone to a person experiencing a benzo-related overdose event won’t help. Naloxone is used to neutralize opioids. (Jenna Hauck/The Progress file photo)
Northern Health warning drug users of potential benzo contamination

The drug does not respond to naloxone, and is being included in street drugs

Thursday, Jan. 28, 2021 is International Lego Day. (Jenna Hauck/ Chilliwack Progress)
Unofficial holidays: Here’s what people are celebrating for the week of Jan. 24 to 30

Lego Day, Talk Like a Grizzled Prospector Day and Puzzle Day are all coming up this week

BC Coroners Service is currently investigating a death at Canoe Cove Marina and Boatyard in North Saanich. (Black Press Media File)
Drowning death in North Saanich likely B.C.’s first in for 2021

Investigation into suspected drowning Monday night continues

Chief Public Health Officer Theresa Tam speaks during a daily briefing in Ottawa. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld)
31 cases of COVID-19 variants detected in Canada: Health officials

Dr. Theresa Tam made announces 13 more variant COVID-19 cases in Canada

An Atlantic salmon is seen during a Department of Fisheries and Oceans fish health audit at the Okisollo fish farm near Campbell River, B.C. in 2018. The First Nations Leadership Council says an attempt by industry to overturn the phasing out of salmon farms in the Discovery Islands in contrary to their inherent Title and Rights. (THE CANADIAN PRESS /Jonathan Hayward photo)
First Nations Leadership Council denounces attempt to overturn salmon farm ban

B.C.’s producers filed for a judicial review of the Discovery Islands decision Jan. 18

Daily COVID-19 cases reported to each B.C. health region, to Jan. 20, 2021. Island Health in blue, Northern Health green, Interior Health orange, Vancouver Coastal in red and Fraser Health in purple. (B.C. Centre for Disease Control)
B.C.’s COVID-19 infection rate stays stable with 508 cases Friday

Vaccine delivered to more than 110,000 high-risk people

Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good
Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good

Pay it Forward program supports local businesses in their community giving

More than 100 B.C. fishermen, fleet leaders, First Nations leaders and other salmon stakeholders are holding a virtual conference Jan. 21-22 to discuss a broad-range of issues threatening the commercial salmon fishery. (Black Press file photo)
B.C. commercial salmon fishermen discuss cures for an industry on the brink

Two-day virtual conference will produce key reccomendations for DFO

The District of Saanich’s communications team decided to take part in a viral trend on Thursday and photoshopped U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders into a staff meeting photo. (District of Saanich/Twitter)
Bernie Sanders makes guest appearance municipal staff meeting in B.C.

Vancouver Island firefighters jump on viral trend of photoshopped U.S. senator

School District 57 headquarters in Prince George. (Mark Nielsen, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter)
Prince George school district settles with sexual abuse victim

Terms were part of an out-of-court settlement reached with Michael Bruneau, nearly four years after he filed a lawsuit

Most Read