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COVID-19 spreading among students off school grounds, says top doctor

Last Updated Sep 28, 2020 at 10:43 pm PDT

FILE - Dr. Bonnie Henry. (Courtesy B.C. Government)
Summary

Dr. Bonnie Henry says there has not been a COVID-19 transmission event or outbreak in a school yet

There has been some transmission in groups of children who have been hanging out together outside of school: Dr. Henry

The province reported 267 new cases over the past three days, along with three deaths

VICTORIA (NEWS 1130) — Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry said Monday there has not been a COVID-19 transmission event or outbreak in a B.C. school yet, but spread has occurred between students.

She’s again asking parents to talk to their children and tell them they can help prevent transmission by limiting social interactions, as there have been more than 35 exposure events involving schools in B.C., including 24 in the Fraser Health Authority and 10 in the Vancouver Coastal region.

“There has been some transmission in groups of children, young people who have been hanging out together outside of the school setting and it affects the whole school community,” Henry added.

“So, parents and young people, let’s support each other to stay small.”

The province reported 267 new cases over the past three days, along with three deaths. The latter happened in the Vancouver Coastal, Fraser Health and Vancouver Island health regions and bring the total of deaths from COVID-19 in B.C. to 233.

“I know, like me, many people would like to see the number of new cases and clusters down, particularly as we watch what is happening across the country and around the globe, as increases in cases are happening in many places,” Henry said.

Ontario reported 700 new COVID-19 infections on Monday.

“Contact tracing has shown that the main source of COVID-19 transmission in British Columbia now continues to be through events where we’re socializing with others, whether in a private home or a less controlled setting. We know that important ceremonies, important events like weddings, birthdays, funerals and parties have been driving this in the last few weeks,” Henry said.

“What this means is that through the choices we make, we can control the course of the pandemic as we’re moving into the fall,” she added.

Bending the curve back down will take an effort from everyone in limiting personal contacts.

“I’m asking you to travel less, to see fewer people, to stay with your household and your safe six, and connect with he other important people in your life virtually,” she said.

“But I also know that young people are very resilient and very adaptable. So now’s our time to support each other and keeping those groups small,” Henry added.

“So now’s the time, when we’re getting over the novelty of how this is going to work, to put in place those rituals, those procedures so that we can safely go back to school, continue the learning and the connection that we have, and not have those potential exposure events outside of the school setting.”

Henry also said just because there’s been an exposure event at a school does not mean students need to stay home.

“If we have an outbreak, it may mean that the whole cohort may go home. The only time that I could see that a school would close is if too many of the teachers or staff had been exposed to each other or become sick and the school couldn’t operate safely,” she said.

Henry added health authorities have criteria for when somebody has had a close contact with COVID-19, including when and for how long they were exposed, and whether it was indoors or outdoors.

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“And absolutely the health authorities follow up with the schools, they follow up with the teachers, and they get the information they need to make the risk assessment for that individual case, she said.

“So we test people, for the most part, who have symptoms, even children. And we know that that’s how most people are identified.”

As flu season approaches, Henry also advised that the spread of COVID-19 is different than other viruses.

“And we know the common cold viruses do spread very easily from a variety of different ways of transmission. It’s not the same necessarily as the spread of COVID-19, but it is a reminder to us all of how important it is to do those basics of washing our hands regularly, covering your mouth when you cough, making sure we’re cleaning our space, making sure we’re keeping our distance and, if we’re not feeling well, to stay home.”

In addition to the new cases over the weekend, the province reported outbreaks at three health facilities.

Henry confirmed a third outbreak at Holy Family Hospital, a long-term care home in Vancouver, as well as new ones at Thornebridge Gardens Retirement Residence in New Westminster and in Harrison West at Elim Village in Surrey.

Holy Family has had more than 20 deaths linked to COVID-19.

Meanwhile, the outbreak at Burnaby Hospital has been declared over.

B.C. recorded 68 new cases for Friday to Saturday, then 125 for the 24-hour period ending Sunday, and 74 more for the one ending Monday.

Of 1,302 active cases of COVID-19, 69 people are in hospital, including 22 in critical care.

“It isn’t always easy to say no to seeing friends or family, we know that we know that we are social creatures and having that social connection is important for all of us. It’s can be a difficult choice to make. But if you see family or friends putting themselves at risk, we need all of us to encourage and support people to do the right thing, right now,” Henry said.