Vancouver Coastal Health (VCH) has reported that less than 10 per cent of staff and students who tested COVID-19 positive between September and December last year contracted the disease at school.
VCH medical health officer Dr. Alex Choi said that around 700 staff and students of schools within the region had tested positive between Sept. 10 and Dec. 18.
“Over 90 per cent of these cases have not resulted in any school-based transmission,” Choi said. “The vast majority of affected students and staff contracted the virus at home or in social circumstances outside of school, and links to schools were determined through contact-tracing.”
Those aged 5-17 years have accounted for six per cent of all COVID-19 cases within Vancouver Coastal, despite representing 10 per cent of the health region’s population of 1.25 million.
Choi said some evidence showed children were less likely to get infected with COVID-19 and less likely to experience severe symptoms if infected.
“We want educators, other school staff, parents/caregivers and students to feel reassured that schools are a safe and low-risk environment for COVID-19 transmission, thanks to the hard work and dedication of our schools and school districts,” Choi said. “The safety plans currently in place are robust and effective, and VCH is committed to ensuring that when students or school staff do test positive, a rigorous public health followup process is in place.”
Choi said the data supports efforts to keep schools open.
“While we have seen a moderate increase in COVID-19 cases among young people since the end of October, this is reflective of the overall increase in COVID-19 cases in our communities. Schools are an essential determinant of physical, mental and emotional development. It is our utmost priority to ensure students can continue to attend school, despite the continuing pandemic,” she said.
VCH releases the name of a school where there has been a COVID-19 exposure only after those who were in contact with the person who tested positive have been notified directly of the potential exposure.
The Ministry of Health doesn’t collate or release information on school exposures or clusters but does report when there has been an outbreak (when the cases were contracted at school.) The parent-run B.C. School COVID Tracker on Facebook does this work and has tallied 2,093 exposures at 754 schools in B.C. since September. This is almost 40 per cent of all schools in the province.
The B.C. Teachers Federation continues to lobby for a mandatory mask policy for all students.
The B.C. Centre for Disease Control (BCCDC) releases COVID-19 data for the age groups of less-than-10 and from 10-19, so it’s hard to break down exactly how many school-aged children have contracted COVID-19 in B.C. BCCDC figures do show that four per cent of children aged 10-and-under have tested COVID-19 positive (2,441 of total 59,072) since the pandemic was declared last March.