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Data shows low rate of COVID-19 transmission in Vancouver Coastal region schools

Last Updated Jan 14, 2021 at 10:22 am PDT

FILE -- A sign outside Hastings Elementary Community School in Vancouver reminds anyone entering the school to adhere to COVID-19 protocols. (Lasia Kretzel, NEWS1130 Photo)

Vancouver Coastal Health has released data on COVID-19 in the region's schools that show a low rate of transmission

Out of a population of 100,000 students and staff in the region, 700 have been diagnosed with COVID-19 since September

More than 90 per cent of COVID-19 school cases have not resulted in any school-based transmission

VANCOUVER (NEWS 1130) — Since students returned to school in September, there has been a very low rate of transmission of COVID-19 in classrooms in the Vancouver Coastal region, according to data from the health authority.

Relative to the general population, VCH has not seen a significant increase in cases among school-aged children compared to other age groups.

Those between five and 17 years old represented six per cent of cases in the region since the pandemic started despite the age group making up 10 per cent of the population.

“We want educators, other school staff, parents/caregivers and students to feel reassured that schools are a safe and low-risk environment for COVID-19 transmission, thanks to the hard work and dedication of our schools and school districts,” says Dr. Alex Choi, VCH medical health officer, in a release. “The safety plans currently in place are robust and effective, and VCH is committed to ensuring that when students or school staff do test positive, a rigorous Public Health follow-up process is in place.”

About 700 students or staff in the region were diagnosed with the virus between Sept. 10 to Dec. 18, and more than 90 per cent of the cases did not result in any school-based transmission.

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The majority of students who did get the coronavirus contracted it at home or in social situations outside of their schools, according to the health authority. VCH says the link to schools was determined through contact tracing.

Choi says the data supports efforts to keep schools open, and for students to attend classes in-person.

The health authority notes that evidence shows children are less likely to contract the virus or experience severe symptoms if they do.

VCH oversees one of the hardest-hit regions in the province for COVID-19 infections, second to the Fraser Health region.

Transmission low when measures followed, says top doctor

Despite calls from concerned parents and frustrated teachers, Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry has been firm on keeping schools open.

She decided against extending the winter break, despite thousands of people signing a petition in favour of delaying the restart in January.

Henry has stressed on several occasions the rate of transmission in schools remains low because of the layers of protection in place.

“School-aged children in the general population represent about 10 per cent of our cases, and it has been fairly consistent, about 10 to 12 percent since the beginning of the pandemic,” she said during the Dec. 23 COVID-19 update.

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“Even though one per cent of school-aged children have been tested, fewer than seven in 1,000, or less than one per cent, actually test positive for COVID-19.”

Henry admitted at the time, the health measures can be challenging at times, and it isn’t always easy to have a young student keep their mask on.