Despite high anxiety among some parents, newly released data from Vancouver Coastal Health shows a low rate of COVID-19 transmission in schools during the first half of the 2020/2021 year.
From Sept. 10 to Dec. 18, Coastal Health said approximately 700 students or staff out of more than 100,000 in the region were diagnosed with COVID-19.
Read more: New B.C. COVID-19 school exposures in 2021
Dr. Alex Choi, the health authority’s medical health officer, said the numbers reflect the transmission seen in the rest of the community and that there has been no significant increase in cases among school-aged children relative to other groups.
“We didn’t see a lot of spread in schools,” Choi told Global News on Thursday.
“Even though we do see cases in schools, in over 90 per cent of cases we actually do not see any transmission in the school setting.”
Kids aged five to 17 years old have accounted for six per cent of Coastal Health’s COVID-19 cases, despite representing 10 per cent of the region’s population.
“There is some indication that, potentially, children are less able to transmit the disease,” said Choi, who also credits measures to prevent infection and rigorous contact tracing for the low transmission rates.
Last fall, a group of West Vancouver parents wrote an open letter to health officials alleging a communications breakdown over exposures in schools.
Writing to provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry and Vancouver Coastal Health chief medical health officer Dr. Patricia Daly, parents at Caulfeild Elementary asked for more transparency in releasing information about COVID-19 in schools.
When VCH learns of a positive case in a student or staff member who had attended school while potentially infectious, officials will liaise with the school to notify all contacts and give directions for self-monitoring and getting tested if symptoms arise or self-isolating at home, Choi said.
Once anyone who was in contact with the positive case has been notified directly, staff will post the information on the health authority’s website, which is updated daily on weekdays.
Choi said the new data supports the province’s efforts to keep schools open, and that the vast majority of students and staff who’ve been affected have contracted the virus at home or in social settings outside of school.