Two elementary schools in B.C.'s Kootenay region have declared their closure for the rest of the academic year due to a surge in local COVID-19 cases.
Earlier this week, Eileen Madson Primary in Invermere, B.C., and Windermere Elementary in Windermere, B.C., asked students to stay home until the next school year begins due to increased coronavirus cases and exposure to the highly contagious disease at both schools.
The local health area covering both small communities recently recorded the highest daily rate of new coronavirus infections across the province.
Data from the B.C. Centre for Disease Control (BCCDC) shows that the Windermere local health area had 30 new COVID cases per 100,000 people from June 15‒21 — while rates in most of the other local health areas were under 10.
School District 6 assistant superintendent Steve Wyer said the schools opted to close because it's no longer safe for them to operate given the number of cases in the local community.
"We have to make the difficult decision with [Interior] Health and the Ministry of Education to functionally close the schools," he told CBC on Friday.
Interior Health interim chief medical health officer Dr. Sue Pollock said most of the new cases in the Windermere area were caused by transmission from close contacts infected with coronavirus.
"In those situations where we have close contacts who then tested positive for COVID, they are already isolating, which is really important because we are not putting the community at greater risk," she said Thursday.
Invermere Mayor Al Miller believes the recent surge is due to residents becoming complacent.
"I think it's just a case of everybody has just really eased up a little bit," he said Thursday to Sarah Penton, the host of CBC's Radio West. "We'll get back on track."
80 per cent of adults in the Windermere local health area have received their first dose of COVID vaccines, according to the BCCDC.
Miller admitted there's a small population of people in his town who remain hesitant about vaccination.
"There's always that little hesitancy," he said. "But… most people are trying their best to do the right things and follow the protocols."