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

Staff at Acropolis Manor, a Prince Rupert long-term health care facility in April 2020 where no cases of COVID-19 were reported until an outbreak on Jan. 19, 2021. As of Jan. 25th, 32 people associated with the residence have tested positive for the virus. (Photo: K-J Millar/The Northern View)
Staff at Acropolis Manor a Prince Rupert long term health care facility, take pride in their work place that no COVID-19 cases have been reported in the facility during the pandemic.This photo taken, April 20, from outside, looking through a window shows staff adhering to strict protocols and best practices to keep residents happy and healthy. (Photo: K-J Millar/The Northern View)
COVID-19 numbers increase at Acropolis Manor – 32 infected

Prince Rupert man concerned about temp. staff from out of region working at long-term care facility

Ken Veldman vice president, public affairs and sustainability, at Prince Port Port Authority on Jan. 21 addressed local employers in an online presentation about a new community recruitment program to attract employees to Prince Rupert. (Photo: K-J Millar/The Northern View)
New recruitment campaign to be launched in Prince Rupert

Web platform will use community collaboration to attract new employees to Prince Rupert

People skate on a lake in a city park in Montreal, Sunday, January 10, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Graham Hughes
The end of hugs: How COVID-19 has changed daily life a year after Canada’s 1st case

Today marks the one year anniversary of COVID-19 landing in Canada

Wet’suwet’en supporters and Coastal GasLink opponents continue to protest outside the B.C. Legislature in Victoria, B.C., on Thursday, February 27, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito
‘We’re still in it’: Wet’suwet’en push forward on rights recognition

The 670-km Coastal GasLink pipeline was approved by B.C. and 20 elected First Nations councils on its path

A health-care worker prepares a dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine at a UHN COVID-19 vaccine clinic January 7, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette
Employers might be able to require COVID-19 vaccination from employees: B.C. lawyer

‘An employer must make the case’ using expert science, explains lawyer David Mardiros

Dr. Penny Ballem, a former deputy health minister, discusses her role in leading B.C.’s COVID-19 vaccination program, at the B.C. legislature, Jan. 22, 2021. (B.C. government)
B.C. holds steady with 407 new COVID-19 cases Tuesday

14 deaths, no new outbreaks in the health care system

A Cessna 170 airplane similar to the one pictured above is reported to be missing off the waters between Victoria and Washington State. Twitter photo/USCG
Canadian, American rescue crews searching for missing aircraft in waters near Victoria

The search is centered around the waters northeast of Port Angeles

Jonathon Muzychka and Dean Reber are wanted on Canada-wide warrants. (Courtesy of Victoria Police Department)
Convicted killer, robber at large after failing to return to facility: Victoria police

Dean Reber, 60, and Jonathon Muzychka, 43, may be together

B.C. Premier John Horgan listens during a postelection news conference in Vancouver on Sunday, Oct. 25, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
30% of B.C. recovery benefit applications held up in manual review

The province says 150 staff have been reassigned to help with manually reviewing applications

Adam Dergazarian, bottom center, pays his respect for Kobe Bryant and his daughter, Gianna, in front of a mural painted by artist Louie Sloe Palsino, Tuesday, Jan. 26, 2021, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong)
Kobe Bryant’s presence remains strong a year after his death

Tuesday marks the grim anniversary of the crash that took their lives

Surrey RCMP are investigating after a pedestrian was struck and killed at 183 Street and Highway 10 Friday night. (File photo)
Modelling of predicted transmission growth from the B117 COVID-19 variant in British Columbia. (Simon Fraser University)
COVID-19 variant predicted to cause ‘unmanageable’ case spike in B.C: report

SFU researchers predict a doubling of COVID-19 cases every two weeks if the variant spreads

The Brucejack mine is 65 km north of Stewart in northwestern B.C. (Pretivm Photo)
B.C. mine executives see bright gleam in post-COVID future

Low carbon drives demand for copper, steelmaking coal

In this Dec. 18, 2020 photo, pipes to be used for the Keystone XL pipeline are stored in a field near Dorchester, Neb.  THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP-Chris Machian /Omaha World-Herald via AP
Canadians divided over Keystone pipeline, despite U.S. president’s permit pullback

Two-thirds of Canadians think Biden’s decision was a “bad thing” for Alberta

Most Read