While there are widespread concerns about the transfer of COVID-19 to schools, Dr Bonnie Henry said the data so far showed that schools were a “very safe” place to be in the midst of the epidemic.
A provincial health official unveiled the model on Wednesday which shows that although there are hundreds of cases where staff and students can be exposed to the novel coronavirus, only a small percentage of those have led to the spread.
“The data shows that we do not see that schools are the place where transmission of the disease is most prevalent,” Henry said.
“When the safety rules are in place in schools, it becomes a safer place and the transfer of opportunities is possible.”
He said school children currently represent about 12 percent of the COVID-19 messages of B.C., and that number has remained unchanged since the epidemic began. To date, there have been four outbreaks of BC in schools, but fewer than seven out of 1,000 school-age children tested positive.
Between November 1 and December 18, there were 526 exposure events in B.C. schools, most of which were located in Vancouver Coastal and Fraser health centers. About a third of the COVID-19 cases in schools were in students, and some were in the workplace.
In the Vancouver Coastal Health district, about 600 children working in schools and school staff have been diagnosed with the virus, resulting in less than 200 cases of exposure in schools.
“About 90 percent of the cases, they got their infection outside of schools, especially from people they had contact with at home,” Henry said.
Only 10 percent of exposure events that have led to the spread within the school environment, especially to one or two people, add.
“Most referral events involve employees only. As far as we know, adults are more likely to pass this on to each other,” Henry said.
In the Fraser Health district, 384 schools have had exposure events, but about 13 percent of those schools have seen potential transmission of COVID-19.
‘We know it’s a challenge’
Henry said he is aware that there have been many concerns about children returning to the classroom, but he believes it is important for their long-term development and for improving communication between people and their teachers and other students.
In November when cases were rampant throughout the province and health officials were struggling to keep track of the number of school exposure events, Henry convened a team of administrators, teachers, parents and health workers to see if BC was going backwards.
“We know it’s a challenge. We know kids don’t always want to wear their mask or are in the hallway. We know that the collection system in some areas works better than others,” Henry said.