When Liberty Craig got an email from Vancouver Coastal Health on the evening of Thursday, Sept. 24, saying her daughter – a Grade 2 student at Caulfeild Elementary in West Vancouver – had to self-isolate for 14 days after a classmate tested positive for COVID-19, she was surprised to learn her other two children were still allowed to go to school.
They would have gone to class the following morning had it not been a professional day. By Saturday, Craig and her 14-year-old daughter, a student at Rockridge Secondary, were feeling sick.
“We decided to bring the whole family for testing,” she said. “We had three positive results: my youngest daughter in Grade 2, my eldest daughter in Grade 9, and myself.”
Craig doesn’t understand why her two older children were not asked to self-isolate when her youngest was ordered to stay home for 2 weeks.
“By the time we found out my daughter had an exposure, we were already positive, but didn’t know it yet,” said Craig. “So, it feels like by the time you find out, it’s too late to do anything about it. And asking siblings to go to school at that point feels dangerous.”
Craig is among thousands of parents who signed a letter addressed to provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry and written by fellow Caulfeild parent Coralynn Gehl. The letter asks that siblings be included when entire classes are ordered to self-isolate because of a COVID-19 exposure.
“It doesn’t make sense that student in Grade 2 who is asked to self-isolate because they are a possible contact might have one or two or three other siblings in the school to continue to interact with other kids,” said Gehl, adding that two siblings, five parents and two grandparents have contracted COVID-19 from a cluster of eight students who tested positive at Caulfeild.
Craig, who says “it’s pretty tough to run a family when everyone is sick,” is grateful that none of her oldest daughter’s friends or classmates at Rockridge Secondary have tested positive. She believes asking students to stay home when their siblings have been ordered to self-isolate would prevent further spread in schools and among extended family members.
“We wouldn’t be speaking out if we didn’t think change was necessary,” said Craig. “My 14-year-old and I have had a pretty rough week. We don’t want other families to have to go though what we went through and worse.”