A COVID-19 outbreak has been declared at Capella Dance Academy in Chilliwack. (Paul Henderson/ Chilliwack Progress)

A COVID-19 outbreak has been declared at Capella Dance Academy in Chilliwack. (Paul Henderson/ Chilliwack Progress)

COVID-19 ‘superspreader’ event at Chilliwack dance academy now up to 36 cases

Dance school owner says she did everything she was told to do by Fraser Health after positive test

Thirty-six people have now tested positive in connection with a Chilliwack dance studio, including the owner, two other instructors and 33 students.

The owner said that she is isolated from her family, trying to get over the illness, and she only ever did what health officials told her to do.

A week after Sarah Wood tested positive for COVID-19 on Oct. 26 and voluntarily shut down Capella Dance Academy, Fraser Health declared a COVID-19 outbreak.

On Nov. 2, the health authority said 26 people at the studio in the industrial area off Yale Road West had tested positive, a number that rose to 36 by Nov. 3.

People who contracted COVID-19, along with their close contacts, were told to self-isolate.

In an incident that Dr. Elizabeth Brodkin of Fraser Health agreed Tuesday was a “superspreader event”, there has been considerable confusion about how and when notifications were made.

“We are also working with the Chilliwack and Fraser-Cascade school districts to ensure they are informed of any potential exposure and are working together to ensure the safety of staff and students,” Fraser Health said in a press release.

Last week, letters were sent to families involved with the academy informing them of a COVID-19 case at the site.

RELATED: COVID-19 exposure event at Chilliwack’s Capella Dance Academy

RELATED: COVID-19 exposures in at least a dozen Chilliwack schools

Wood confirmed that she has the virus, and Fraser Health first said in a letter to affected parents that potential exposure might have occurred on Oct. 21 and 22. That was later updated on Nov. 2 to say those affected were spread over the dates of Oct. 20 to 27.

In one of two letters to parents, Wood urged those who weren’t feeling well to get tested. She also said she would be closing her studio even though Fraser Health never ordered it closed.

Parents with children at the studio expressed surprise because, they said, the academy had stricter COVID-19 protocols than public schools, including masks in common spaces, no adults in the dance studios, physical distancing, and staggered class times.

In its release announcing the outbreak, Fraser Health said it “will inspect the site and we are continuing to work with the dance academy to strengthen their COVID-19 mitigation strategies.”

In a lengthy media statement sent out Nov. 3, Wood responded to suggestions that information was not forthcoming about the outbreak, stating that she was “simply doing what I was told by the powers that be.”

She gave a timeline of the events since her positive test on Oct. 26, after which she emailed the entire studio roster on Oct. 27 and closed the doors “still at this time receiving zero direction from Fraser Health.”

It wasn’t until Oct. 29, when she said contact tracers told her when she would have been contagious, information she should share with families directly affected.

“Thinking that wasn’t enough action I chose to send it to the entire studio,” she said. “At this point, a great deal of dancers chose to be tested. I’m glad they did as some with no symptoms at all tested positive…. I was contacted by Fraser Health and they are quite overwhelmed with the growing numbers in B.C.”

Wood said she did as she was ordered to do by Fraser Health, including sending an email to dancers to isolate for 14 days from the last day in the studio as a precaution. The health authority confirmed the studio closure was voluntary.

“I do not have any control on how fast Fraser Health is working. I have co-operated 110 per cent since the beginning to get this ball rolling. I do not have any control over how fast the school district is contacted. Fraser Health is in charge of all contact tracing.”

She added that obviously the virus did not start in her studio, and she has been as open and transparent as possible.

“The facts are that it’s in our community and regardless of all of the sanitizing, social distancing, masks in common areas it still made its way through our doors. I am not careless with my dancers or their families.”

RELATED: List of Chilliwack youth groups closing due to COVID-19 growing quickly

Do you have something to add to this story, or something else we should report on? Email:
tolsen@abbynews.com


@ty_olsen
Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter

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

Just Posted

Lisa Batstone’s appeal of her conviction and sentence for the killing of her eight-year-old daughter is set for Jan. 12, 2021. (File photos)
South Surrey mother’s murder-appeal date set

Lisa Batstone is appealing her conviction and sentence in death of eight-year-old daughter

A home on the corner of at the corner of 63B Avenue and 165A Street boasts a display of thousands of lights that bring in people throughout the city to check it out. The family also collects donations for BC Children's Hospital. (Photo: Lauren Collins)
MAP: Christmas light displays in Surrey and beyond

Send us pictures of your National Lampoon-style lit-up homes, nativity scenes or North Pole playlands

LightStrike Germ-Zapping Robot designed by Xenex Disinfection Services. (Contributed photo)
Germ-killing robot on the job at White Rock’s Peace Arch Hospital

Goal to match $100,000 donation met, say PAHF officials

A tongue-in-cheek message about wearing a face mask to curb the spread of COVID-19 on a sign outside a church near Royal Columbia Hospital, in New Westminster, B.C., on Sunday, Nov. 29, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
B.C.’s COVID-19 infection count climbs back up to 656

20 more people in hospital, active cases still rising

The westbound lanes of Highway 1 between Clearbrook and McCallum roads were closed to traffic Wednesday morning after a fatal collision involving a pedestrian.
Pedestrian dies after being struck by vehicle on Highway 1 in Abbotsford

Collision takes place early Wednesday morning between Clearbrook and McCallum roads

A teacher places the finishing touches on the welcome sign at Hunter’s Glen Junior Public School which is part of the Toronto District School Board (TDSB) during the COVID-19 pandemic in Scarborough, Ont., on Sept. 14, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette
Hindsight 2020: How do you preserve a year many Canadians would rather forget?

Figuring out how to preserve the story of the pandemic poses a series of challenges

Haley Callison. (Facebook photo)
Former B.C. pro hockey player frustrated with COVID-deniers after horrific bout with virus

Haleigh Callison hopes people will follow precautions and tone down the rhetoric

FILE – A near empty waterfront train platform is pictured in downtown Vancouver, Monday, April 20, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
TransLink disables some services for second day due to ‘suspicious network activity’

Customers cannot use credit card or debit card at fare gates or Compass card vending machines

A man stands in the window of an upper floor condo in Vancouver on March 24, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
Change made to insurance for B.C. condo owners amid rising premiums

Council CEO Janet Sinclair says the change will mean less price volatility

Google Maps screenshot taken at 7:14 a.m.
Westbound Highway 1 lanes in Abbotsford closed as crews investigate serious crash

Crash occurred between McCallum and Riverside roads at around 4 a.m., next update at 8 a.m.

The Walking Curriculum gets students outside and connecting with nature. (Amanda Peterson/Special to S.F. Examiner)
‘Walking Curriculum’ crafted by SFU professor surges in popularity

The outdoor curriculum encourages students to connect with the natural world

Mirandy Tracy, left, and Tara Kurtz are two Langley mothers who are organizing a "sick out" for Tuesday, Dec. 1 to protest COVID conditions in schools. They're calling for masks and smaller class sizes, among other things. (Matthew Claxton/Langley Advance Times)
Politician, labour leader throw support behind student Sick Out day

Langley parents started the movement to keep kids home on Dec. 1 as a protest

Most Read