Vancouver Coastal Health (VCH) has released data on COVID-19 transmission in schools across the health authority.
The health authority says that the data “indicates a low rate of COVID-19 transmission” over the first half of the school year, adding that since reopening in September, “VCH has not recorded a significant increase” in cases among school-aged children.
“At the beginning of school year when students went back to the classroom, we didn’t see an increase in cases,” Medical Health Officer Dr. Alex Choi told Daily Hive in an interview.
“In November, when cases increased in the community significantly, we saw increase in schools directly related to community transmission.”
She hopes the data reassures parents, caregivers, staff, and students that schools are a relatively safe and low-risk environment for COVID-19 transmission.
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Between September 10 and December 18, VCH says that approximately 700 students and staff out of a “total population of over 100,000” were diagnosed with COVID-19.
“Over 90% of these cases have not resulted in any school-based transmission,” says the health authority.
VCH states that the vast majority of students and staff who contracted the virus did so either at home or “in social circumstances outside of school.”
Choi acknowledged calls from families for more data on COVID-19 cases in schools, and said the health authority is “still trying to work together to understand what the data needs are.”
She did not say when VCH will release further data on COVID-19 cases in schools, or whether it will provide any more information on top of its daily exposure notifications. VCH alerts the public when someone was in school in the days before testing positive, but it doesn’t say how many cases are tied to each exposure.
However, Choi said that most clusters so far have been limited to two or three individuals.
When a positive case is discovered in a student or staff member, the health authority’s investigation is typically completed within 24 hours. Guidelines such as contact tracing, testing, and self-isolation are also followed.
Keeping children in school is important even during a pandemic, Choi said. When schools are closed, children can suffer from mental health issues, decreased academic attainment, and loss of connection from peers during an important time in their development.
“What we’ve seen so far would support keeping schools open,” she said.