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This week School District 58 Nicola-Similkameen has confirmed two positive cases of COVID-19 at Merritt Secondary School.

The exposures were stated to have occurred last week on January 6 and 7.

The news of the positive cases led to several families and students skipping school on Wednesday.

“What we’re challenged with right now is we have a small number of students that have been directed to self-isolate through the Interior Health Authority,” said Assistant Superintendent Jameel Aziz. “We had a high number of student absences at Merritt Secondary School today (Wednesday). That either was because the students were uncomfortable, or their parents were uncomfortable.”

“We have to reassure our families that our schools are safe, they are sanitized, they are cleaned regularly. It is safe for our students to be at school, if it was not safe we certainly would not be bringing them to school,” added Aziz.

Superintendent Steve McNiven hinted that approximately 50% of the student body was absent yesterday. McNiven addressed alternative options for students and families not feeling safe in schools.

“We have hired pandemic support teachers. We would move students and families to consider distributed learning if they need a long-term solution as some of our students have. We believe that’s a good option for our students; however, we do want as many of our students back because we know that’s where we can meet their needs,” said McNiven.


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Interior Health 2

KAMLOOPS — Interior Health has declared a COVID-19 outbreak at Brocklehurst Gemstone Care Centre in Kamloops.

According to a news release from IH Wednesday (Jan. 13), the outbreak involves four residents of the long-term care facility who have tested positive for the virus. IH says all close contacts of the four are isolating and watching for symptoms.

IH says there is no evidence that this outbreak is connected to any other healthcare facilities in Kamloops.

All visitation to Gemstone has been cancelled, except in cases when the resident is near death.

Gemstone is owned and operated by Trellis Seniors Services, with 130 beds, including 125 that are publicly funded.

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bc news

Dr. Bonnie Henry, B.C.'s provincial health officer, and Adrian Dix, Minister of Health, have issued the following joint statement regarding updates on the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) response in British Columbia:

"Today, we are reporting 519 new cases, including six epi-linked cases, for a total of 59,072 cases in British Columbia.

"There are 4,810 active cases of COVID-19 in the province. There are 360 individuals currently hospitalized with COVID-19, 76 of whom are in intensive care. The remaining people are recovering at home in self-isolation.

"Currently, 7,260 people are under active public health monitoring as a result of identified exposure to known cases and a further 51,893 people who tested positive have recovered.

"Since we last reported, we have had 117 new cases of COVID-19 in the Vancouver Coastal Health region, 235 new cases in the Fraser Health region, 34 in the Island Health region, 84 in the Interior Health region, 45 in the Northern Health region and four new cases of people who reside outside of Canada.

"To date, 63,430 people have received a COVID-19 vaccine in B.C.

"There have been 12 new COVID-19 related deaths, for a total of 1,031 deaths in British Columbia. We offer our condolences to everyone who has lost their loved ones during the COVID-19 pandemic.

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Jackie tegart 4

The BC Liberals are calling on the NDP Government to increase transparency around the reporting of COVID-19 cases, especially in schools, long-term care facilities, and hospitals.

“Access to clear, consistent, and understandable data is essential in helping people better understand the risks of this virus and make more informed decisions as we enter the second year of this pandemic,” said Renee Merrifield, BC Liberal Health Critic and MLA for Kelowna-Mission. “Although there has been some progress in recent weeks, the B.C. government remains far behind other jurisdictions in providing frequent, granular data to the public, and it is having negative impacts on British Columbians.”

Fraser-Nicola MLA Jackie Tegart, Opposition Critic for Education, joined Q101 to discuss the call for transparency around positive cases in schools.

“Right now, parents are asking for information to make decisions for the safety of their children in schools, families want to know more so they can provide the best possible care for at-risk family members — people want to be able to make evidence-based decisions,” said Tegart, BC Liberal Education Critic and MLA for Fraser-Nicola. “Data is a vital tool that can help promote greater compliance with public health orders and help reassure British Columbians they have the information necessary to make the best decisions for their families.”

For an example of the inconsistent reporting of positive cases in schools, Merritt Secondary has sent home two letters to parents this week confirming a pair of COVID-19 cases, however, the outbreak remains absent from the Interior Health Authorities school exposure list.

Tegart spoke to those challenges leading to parents creating their own online databases for school exposures around the province.

“That fabulous that parents are doing that, but that shows the concern that there is out there in the public. People are looking for this information, they need it to make good decisions for their families. And it’s a shame that the government hasn’t responded in a way that satisfies the need for information. We know when there is an information gap, if the government doesn’t transparently report then others will fill in that gap,” added Tegart.

“The education sector was asked to put plans together on a very short timeframe. They are doing their absolute best to provide quality education in our schools, but the government needs to support that, and they need to listen to their voices,” concluded Tegart.

The calls for better transparency were outlined in a letter sent by Tegart and Merrifield to BC Health Minister Adrian Dix.


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Interior Health

Interior Health has made it easier for people living within the Interior Health region to find the community mental health and substance use (MHSU) supports they need with the expansion of an easy-to-remember phone number: 310-MHSU (6478).  

The phone service was developed in response to feedback from clients and the public, to make it simpler for people to access and navigate community support. It is available to service providers as well as the general public who wish to connect to MHSU services.

The service launched in the South Okanagan on Sept. 8, 2020, prior to expanding Interior Health-wide on Jan. 12, 2021.

The 310-MHSU phone service offers a connection to community-based Interior Health MHSU services.  Calls to 310-MHSU will be automatically routed to the nearest community MHSU centre, where staff will determine the caller’s needs and connect them to the appropriate service.


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