With the start of a new school year just one week away, a Kelowna pediatrician is reassuring parents who may be feeling anxious about another school year amid the ongoing pandemic.
“We did really well at schools last year, especially in that age range that’s under 13 years of age,” Dr. Tom Warszawski told Global News.
“So despite being in schools, despite being not masked and despite being around a whole lot of kids, they did not catch much COVID.”
Warshawski said only 5 per cent of total cases in B.C. involved children under the age of 13 during the last school year.
“Their attack rate for COVID was less than you would expect for their share of the population,” he said. “So their attack rate was about 5 per cent.”
But the Delta variant of COVID-19 is now the main circulating variant in the province, according to the B.C. Centre for Disease Control (BCCDC).
The BCCDC said the highly contagious variant accounted for about 98 per cent of positive cases between Aug. 15 and Aug. 21.
“The Delta variant is a different kettle of fish,” Warshawski said. “It’s more highly transmissible, so we would expect those numbers probably to increase a little bit in terms of the amount of kids that are infected with COVID.”
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The province’s top doctor, Dr. Bonnie Henry, has maintained that transmission of COVID-19 in the school setting is very low and often reflects what’s happening in the community.
“Most cases are community acquired,” Warshawski said. “Kids don’t give it to kids. Adults give it to kids and it probably has to do with their body size, the amount of breath they exhale.”
But despite the highly contagious variant, Warshawski is telling parents, especially parents of children who are not yet eligible to get a vaccine or mandated to wear a mask, that the chance of serious illness still remains low.
“I think the reassurance that parents need to take home and think about is even if your child gets COVID, the chance of getting very, very sick is extremely small,” Warshawski said.
“In children under the age of 20, there were … two deaths out of 26,000 cases. That’s an incidence rate of death of about .003 percent.”
Warshawski said for parents of elementary school-aged children, the single most important way to protect them is to get vaccinated.
“Get vaccinated,” he said. “Make sure you’re fully vaccinated, all the people around that child are fully vaccinated.”
While masks are only mandated for students in Grade 4 and up, Warshawski encouraged younger children to wear them, too, as an extra layer of protection.
“I think if you’re a concerned parent, encourage your child to wear a mask,” he said. “Most kids adapt to it very, very easily.”